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V.S. Ramachandran: 3 Clues to Understanding Your Brain

Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.

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Introduction

Brain and spinal injuries physically damage nerve cells. They can also prevent nerve cells from receiving blood, resulting in cell death, in addition to the damage nerve cells suffer from injury-related trauma. Even after an accident, damage can spread to surrounding tissue, making things worse with time. These changes can cause a variety of symptoms including paralysis, compromised speech, and emotional and memory problems. Scientists are actively searching for new ways to keep cells alive in damaged environments, prompt the brain and spinal cord to generate new cells, and create better rehabilitation programs to help the millions worldwide living with neurological injuries. While advances in imaging technology have enabled physicians to pinpoint injury locations faster, molecular and cellular tools are helping scientists identify chemicals that can protect the brain and spinal cord from further damage. Ongoing research aims to reawaken brain circuits silenced by stroke or injury and drive the creation of new ones.

Discoveries

Talking Heads: Rebuilding Language After Stroke

Source: Wellcome Trust
Stroke can affect any part of the brain, resulting in the death of tissue vital for the brain’s normal functions, including language. In this film we meet Tess and Michael, who have each had a stroke affecting language in very different ways.

Stroke - Restructuring the Brain

Source: Wellcome Trust
Neuroscientists are exploring the structural changes in the brain’s white and grey matter that underlie learning. Understanding the precise cellular nature of those changes may improve diagnosis of brain damage and therapeutic interventions in stroke.

Injury in the News

Off-Season May Not be Long Enough for Football Players' Brain Health

Source: FOX News
Date: 17 April 2014
The time between football seasons may not be enough for players' brains to recover from hard hits to their heads during games and practices.

PET Scans Offer Clues on Vegetative States

Source: New York Times
Date: 15 April 2014
A study found that a significant number of people labeled vegetative had received an incorrect diagnosis and actually had some degree of consciousness.

Paralysed Men Move Again with Spinal Stimulation

Source: BBC
Date: 8 April 2014
Four paralysed men have been able to move their legs for the first time in years after electrical stimulation of their spinal cords, US doctors report.