Lesson 11

The limbic system and the autonomic nervous system are examples of functional brain units that are not discretely organized into one single area but are diffusely located. What makes them a unit is that they share information and utilize a distinct group of neurotransmitters. They represent a network of individuals with a common last name, so to speak. 

Within the cortex, there are similar systems or networks, each with its unique neurotransmitter such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine or epinephrine. 

There is a refined level of homeostatsis maintained by the brain itself that extends beyond the tight regulation of the internal environment of the body as a whole. The regulation of these neurotransmitters is essential to brain function and disturbance to the fine balance can result in psychiatric or "mental" dysfunction and in severe instances conditions such as depression, mania or schizophrenia.

Just as an imbalance of insulin and glucose in the body can result in the medical condition known as diabetes mellitus, subtle variations in our neurotransmitters can result in mental disease. There is still a stigma in our society attached to mental dysfunction but at the root of its problem is theimbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. 

One form of diabetes is caused by excessive consumption of sugars and a repetitive taxing of the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Repetitive stress on the neurotransmitter producing cells of our brain may contribute to brain chemistry imbalance, a lack of ease or "dis-ease."

Pay attention to your brain's health just as you do for your body. Food and water, activity and rest in the right proportions are necessary to maintain "brain homeostasis." Sometimes more intervention is needed and the medical field is learning how to restore brain balance with new drugs. Attention deficit disorder is a relatively common dysfunction that is helped by regulating or restoring balance to the neurotransmitters in the brain with medication.

Another great threat to brain function is the transient disruption of the brain circuitry that can occur with mind-altering substances.
The nebulous entity that is the mind is an intermingled group of systems that rely on neurotransmitters to maintain a steady and dependable perception of the world and anawareness of our perception.

The use of drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, illicit use of prescription drugs and the illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine and opiates can alter the fine balance that your brain has constructed over years of development. These years of construction have given you a tool designed to give you an accurate view of the world around you. The short-term release from reality or stress that these substances may provide carries a risk of permanent brain injury. Most of these substances are addictive, harmful to your body and create a vicious cycle of dependence, a high price to pay for a transient perception of an improved state of being.

They will all dump you back lower than where you started and provide no lasting benefit. 

I urge you to abstain from these substances to avoid the harmful effects they have on the greatest gift you've been given, the human brain.

Use your brain to protect your body.
Use your brain to protect your mind.
Find your self and be well.