Answers from Neurology, Part 2


Answers from Neurology, Part 2

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (May 11, 2001)

As I have pointed out in a previous writing, neurology largely concerns itself with the driving force in our existence—the brain—and we take this organ, clearly the seat of consciousness, for granted. Few of us are aware of the fact that when doctors prescribe medicines for depression, nervousness, and anxiety (like Prozac and Elavil) they are using chemicals that affect specific nerve cells in the brain.

There has been a kind of rhyme and reason to the existence of living things: they are cells upon cells. The brain is cells upon cells, and it has been estimated that in the cortex, that gray matter in the surface of the two upper brains (the left and right hemispheres) and the cerebellum, just above the stem, and controlling action, there are more neurons or cell bodies than there are stars in the heavens.

These neurons (that ultimately determine how we function, what we are and do) are somewhat like a branch with a knot in it: The knot is the cell body, which at one end has spreading branches called dendrites, and which at the other end has a long arm called an axon. When stimulated (say, by seeing a rose or by a needle stuck into the finger or by the taste of sugar or by an idea from within) the dendrites will receive an impulse that gets passed on through the cell body and to the axon, which uses some kind of neuro-transmitter to pass the impulse on to dendrites of another cell body.

In some common ailments, like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's Disease, the insufficiency of neuro-transmitters is suspected as the cause of the disorder. What we feel or think or imagine or do is the effect of all those transmissions—impulse in through dendrites, through the cell body and then down the axon which makes a point of contact (called the synapse) with the dendrites of another cell. These interconnections (imagine 10 billion cells hooked up into all kinds of interconnections) cause us to be who we are, what we know, how our consciousness operates, and what we do.

impulse traveling through brain cells

Impulse Traveling Through Brain Cells

Gentle reader, we are primarily what our brains are. It is easy for the people, as a matter of convenience or lack of ability to deal with perplexing situations, to say someone "knew" what he was doing, "knew right from wrong," like our courts (equally ignorant), when in truth that person is capable of knowing only what his three brains can produce for him through its cells and interconnections of cells. How responsible is one for bad connections or defects?

Only someone with absolute understanding of all this brain activity is in a position to know how culpable someone is: No wonder God is so forgiving, as we do the best we know how to do justice. Our fault is not in our stars. It is in our brains. Again, where does responsibility lie?

Part 1