Essay Competition

        Participants of the 2016 Brain Bee Essay Competition and their Essay Submissions

 

 

Dominique Jeremiah

Chapter 10: Childhood Disorders

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 Johan Peterkin

 Chapter 6: Sleep

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Kunta Andall

 Chapter 11: Addiction

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   Nicia John 

Chapter 3: Senses and Perception

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Rashad Mc Phail

Chapter 4: Learning, Memory, and Language

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Shampha Moses

Chapter 5: Movement

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                                Dominique Jeremiah (back to top)                       

    Chapter 10: Childhood Disorders

 

                    Lying beneath the skull resides a fascinating organ that not only manages the functions of the body, but (back to top)also has the potential to change the world. This organ is known as the brain. It is the most complicated organ in the body that controls everything. The brain will process all information to provide clarity and protection. It can be affected by environmental and genetic factors leading to abnormalities in the wiring of the brain in children. This can create unique challenges making it hard to learn under normal condition and live normal lives.

                    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong  neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and to make sense of their environment. Children with autism have obsessive and repetitive behavior. Autism is genetically based, over 100 genes have been linked to autism, but no individual gene has been found that is responsible for autism. Scientists believe that the environmental components have a part to play in causing ASD in children. Other than inability to communicate properly children with autism undergo other problems like: intellectual disability, gastrointestinal problems and seizures. There is no cure for autism but it can be treated using behavioral therapies. Therefore, diagnostic for ASD are based on behavioral symptoms that starts to show around 3-4 years of age. Also social interaction with others can be used to detect this disorder in children between one and two.

                    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood behavioral disorder that affects 5-8 percent of children and in which half continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. These symptoms appear in children four (4) years and affect their everyday routines. Genes plays a part in ADHD. Encoding dopamine and norepinephrine transmission has been associated with ADHD. Adults suffering with this disorder have a decrease amount of dopamine present. Areas of the brain that are affected are the circuits that connect the cortex, the striatum and the cerebellum especially in the left hemisphere. There is no cure for ADHD but it can be treated by school base intervention, behavioral therapies and medication like stimulants.

                    Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder caused by a mistake in cell division in the time of conception that result in an extra copy of chromosome twenty-one (21). It is present in the egg or less in the sperm. It appears in 1 of every 691 babies. Most down syndrome are born to mothers over 35 years of age. Down syndrome can be diagnosed by parental screening test; for example, the triple and quadruple screen blood test.  It detects 70 percent of fetuses, also by the chorionic villus and sampling or amniocentesis. Children with Down syndrome can develop cognitive decline with a slight, but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities including memory and thinking. This increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by age 60. There is no cure for this disorder, but intervention programs can be used after birth to nurture the child.

                    Dyslexia is a learning disability, which affects 80 percent of children. Symptoms of dyslexia are mispronunciation of words, lack of fluency in speech, hesitation before responding, word retrieval difficulties, slow reading rate, poor handwriting and difficulty learning foreign languages. Teaching the child that words can be broken up into smaller units of sound and each sound is link to a particular letter can treat this disorder. Dyslexia is caused by the abnormalities in the M type cell. The regions of the brain that is affected are the left temporal lobe and the left inferior frontal region.           

               Even though the brain is the most powerful organ in the body, it can become dysfunctional. We cannot always protect it from childhood disorders, but we can make the situation better.  Children with brain disorders are robbed of their ability to live a normal life. It doesn’t matter what is the nature of the problem, the brain still allows people to achieve incredible milestone in their lives; for example, Albert Einstein, who is one of the world’s greatest physicians suffered with dyslexia, but that did not stop him from reaching his dream.

 

 

 

    Johan Peterkin (back to top)       

Chapter 6: Sleep

 

After reading chapter six of the Brain Facts book I learned how important sleep is , not only in performance but also in health.  I learned that a lack of sleep can not only leave someone at a higher risk of a heart or stroke but can also reduce someone’s focus and increase their response time.  In fact the book also said that a lack of sleep can have as great an effect on performance as alcohol consumption.

 

Reading this chapter also deepened my understanding of how the body transitions through the different stages of sleep and home and how our sleep cycles change throughout our lives, for instance, as children grow older they spend much less time asleep and less time in deep slow wave sleep.

 

I also learned about several sleep disorders, such as insomnia which is the most common sleep disorder and narcolepsy which is a sleep disorder where the switching mechanisms that control the transition into sleep do not work properly.

 

Chapter six of the Brain Facts book has also taught me the two main factors that determine why we get sleepy.  They are the circadian system which is regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus and how long we

have been awake.

 

 

 

                                                         Kunta Andall (back to top)                                                           

Chapter 11: Addiction

Drugs target the brain reward system, consequently monphing a mere bad habit to a very real dangerous brain disorder. This phenomenon in the brain is called Drug addiction.

These change the natural processes in the brain amongst neurons.  Messages sent can be intercepted, modified or copied by drugs, which is very unsettling.  While this is scientific fact, some controversy remains on the real suspect and perpetrator behind the actual cause and susceptibility to drug addiction.  Factors include the environment, one’s own genes inherited by their parents and the drugs them self.

One of the most popularly abused substances, at least in the USA is Nicotine.  This hornific monster is accountable for a whopping one hundred and ninety-three billion US dollars annually.  Worst of all this onslaught of a nicotinic geuocide of Americans in preventable.  It all comes down to choice.

Treatments for nicotine addiction include the initially administered Bupropion.  However a new drug is being used subsequent to its predecessor, bupropion.  It is called Varenicline.

Alcohol is a drug that is abused by more than a colossal seventeen million persons.  Close to that amount comes up with alcohol-related conditions after abuse.  Veritably, such persons suffer from alcoholism.  In babies it is known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Other major complication includes Cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption.  Alcohol acts as an alluring drug; it reduces all forms of counter-contributors to homeostasis.  It is two-faced; a stimulant when light and a depressant when rough.

Marijuana has an especially ‘mutual’ link to the brain.  It is a fact that the brain has cannabinoid receptors, which seems to have a special affinity for cannabinoids whether inside the brain or alien to it.  Hence, marijuana sort of ‘cheats’ the brain.  Abuse of the drug targets and dilapidate the structure and function of the hippocampus.

Infiltration of external addictive substances of the brain is normal with drug addicts.  It is no different with opiates; however, how sad is it, that the brain cannot perceive the slightest difference between its own and an alien?  Endogenous opioids have the same ‘duping’ effect on the brain.  Thankfully drugs like methadone, naloxone and naltrexone curb the seduction of addicts by opiates.

Psychostimulants include cocaine (all forms) and the amphetamines (all forms also).  These, when smoke, race to the brain where they fight with logic and intelligence.  Subsequent to this, the smoker experiences an intense euphoria, or ‘high’.  Binges result in depression and exhaustion (both emotional and physical).

Have you ever heard of ‘XTC’?  Or perhaps ‘Adam’?  If you have, know that this and other drugs are dangerous – especially of this allegory, Club Drugs.  These have no identifiers, and can be easily slipped into a drink, intoxicating the target.  These include Rohypnol and Ketamine.  Others are herbal ecstasy and GHB.  All of the drugs produce a deep high, but have dangerous, even lethal effects on the whole body.

 

 

Nicia John (back to top)     

Chapter 3: Senses and Perception

       The world as we see it today is complex. It contains information that we process in order for us to create a clear perception of our world. This information is interpreted by our sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). Without the ability to process stimuli (which is based on senses), a job done by receptors of organs, the world would be different. We would be unaware of our surroundings, presence and customs. Therefore, the world as we understand it now is greatly influenced by our five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

        Sight allows us to view the world and interpret its qualities: color, shape, size, light variations, movement and location. This sense tends to incorporate 30% of the brain's activities. Sight is stimulated by travelling light. The light reaches the set of the eye's receptors, the photoreceptors (125 million in each eye), to receive what has been seen. Information then reaches the lateral geniculate nucleus (thalamus) and then the primary visual cortex (occipital lobe) of the brain. The occipital lobe is the lobe responsible for visual information. In order to attain information on the eye, research on the fruit fly (Drosophila Melanogaster) was done.

         Hearing is another sense involved perception. It is conducted by the ear. Hearing is influenced by different frequencies of wavelengths, sounds, created by small vibrations. These signals detect the pitch of a sound, location of the sound and the loudness generated. Sound is carried to the brain through the main parts of the ear. Waves first travel through the outer ear, which comprises the pinna and ear canal; then the middle ear, which consists of the eardrum and ossicles (tiny bones- hammer, anvil and stirrup) and lastly the inner ear, which contains the cochlea, oval window and auditory nerve to the brain.

         The two senses taste and smell are very similar. These both senses deal with responding to chemicals. The chemicals can be scents (odorants) or tastes (tastants). There are many types of tastants and they can be determined as sweet, sour, bitter, salty or umami. Tastes are detected by the 5000- 10,000 taste buds on the tongue which are received by the sensory cells and then relayed to the brain along cranial nerves. Smell, however, uses sensory cells on the roof of the nose to trap an odor with tiny cilia at its tip and carry it through the olfactory bulbs to the brain. This can produce a perception of flavors from foods.

            The last sense is touch. It is processed by touch receptors in the skin and allows identification of objects based on size, shape, texture and weight. Touch involves the feeling of pain which is received by nociceptors. Pain is usually based on an injury and is felt stronger at areas of the skin where receptors are closer together.

          Our five senses are so important in our everyday lives and complete the nervous system with its connections from the outer world. They work in synchronization and provide an overall interpretation to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Rashad Mc Phail (back to top)

Chapter 4: Learning, Memory, and Language

 

   From this chapter I understand that there is a plethora of areas in the brain controlling learning, memory and language. From experimenting on a seizure prone child whose initials are H.M., scientists have discovered that in the medial parts of the temporal lobes is responsible for the making, organizing,   combining, and retrieval of memory while the cortical parts are for long term storage of normal situations. The parts of H.M.’s temporal lobes removed due to surgery were the hippocampus and parahippocampal region which played an essential part in the conversion of short to long term memory. As a result, H.M. suffered from memory loss but could have still recollected things from his childhood which were before the surgery. Prior to this discovery it was believed that the medial temporal region was for permanent memory storage but now it is proven that these areas are partly for the organization and permanent storage in other brain areas.

 

   I also gather from this chapter there are different types of memory. Declarative memory is the remembrance of usual facts and circumstances. Studies have shown that areas in the cerebral cortex co-operate with the hippocampus to help declarative memory, they help with perception, mobility, emotions, and cognition. Working memory is a type of declarative memory which is formed during new experiences. Selection, rehearsal, and monitoring of long-term information are controlled by specific zones in the prefrontal cortex. Semantic memory is another form of declarative memory which includes general facts and data. Episodic memory is memory of personal experiences at a distinct time and place. The hippocampus exhibits episodic memory. Another type of memory is procedural memory which is the memory of how to do something. It occurs in the cerebellum for remembering how to perform motor tasks that require coordinate timing, and also occurs in the basal ganglia. The amygdala, hypothalamus, and the sympathetic nervous system all express emotional memory which is the attachment of emotional importance to elsewhere neutral stimuli and situations.

 

   I understand that memory is stored in brain cells. Studies have given evidence supports the theory that memory involves a persistent change in synapses, the neural connections. Animal studies have shown that the synapse changes happen in the short term through biochemical events that affect the strength such synapses.

 

   In language, I understand that it is the one of the most common human features. Aphasia is the term given to disorders in Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. The Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are both found in the left hemisphere of the brain, the Broca’s area is in the frontal lobe while the Wernicke’s area is in the temporal lobe. Damage to the Broca’s area can cause nonfluent aphasia which slows speech and needs effort to produce speech and commonly makes one say noncomplex sentences. Nonfluent aphasics can understand less complex heard speech though. Damage to the Wernicke’s area can cause fluent aphasia in which one cannot understand heard speech and produced speech is usually gibberish.

 

 

                               

                               Shampha Moses (back to top)                                

Chapter 5: Movement

 

 

‘Actions speak louder than words’. This old proverb has proved true- especially in relation to movement. A facial expression, a gesture, these can easily depict someone’s mood or state of mind. For example, if someone is annoyed, they may tend to fold their arms. Our movements are produced by the activation of the muscles. They can be closed called a flexor, or opened called an extensor. Most of our muscles cross one or more joints, e.g. the triceps stretch from the arm, over the elbow to the ulna radius. Flexors and extensors work in opposition to each other. While the first contracts a muscle, the second extends. A muscle that moves a joint in an intended direction is called an agonist. Antagonists do the opposite, they go against the motion. After the movement has been completed, these return to their normal positions, restoring equilibrium. Thousand of individual muscle fibers make up each skeletal muscle and is controlled by one alpha motor neuron, in either the brain or the spinal cord. One alpha motor neuron along with its muscle fibers is called a motor unit. They are the critical link between the brain and the muscles in terms of movement.

 

                    There are two main types of movement: involuntary and voluntary movements. Involuntary movements are reflexes- the simplest, most fundamental movements. For example, the knees reflex movement, the stretch reflex and flexion withdrawal movement. They occur because of flexion and contraction as a result of sensory stimulus.

 

                  Voluntary movements are more complex movement because they require conscious planning. This is caused by the motor cortex. Other regions of the rain associated with this are: the cerebellum, thalamus and the basal ganglia. The neurotransmitter dopamine also helps. Voluntary movement requires coordinating, adjusting and being able to deal with changing conditions. Some diseases associated with movement are Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic Lacteral Sclerosis. Whether it be walking, talking, picking up a teacup, dancing etc. all these brain structures are vital for making sure the movement is coordinated and carried out.