Monday, March 11, 2013


It's Brain Awareness Week.  Given the nature of this blog, I feel it's fitting I make sure everyone is aware of this and that I devote some time to sharing some of the things I've learned.  The logo to the left which I will leave up all week, takes you to The Dana Foundation website where they are promoting all sorts of activities.

The brain, I might argue, is the most important organ in the human body.  For the most part, it regulates the rest of our body.  It's also the least understood of all of the organs.

Here's a quick recap and a basic primer on what I think I've learned since I've begun digging into my own brain.  The key word in that sentence: THINK.  I'm no brain surgeon.  I'm just trying to understand what the hell is going on so I can throw some scattered thoughts into the brains of the researchers.  I am leaving the hard part in their hands.  Here's the mess, can you fix it?

Let's start with a diagram... it's colorful and I have NO IDEA what it all means, but I like it:

Now, the things I've found to be most important.  Myelin, Neurogenesis, Neuroplasticity.

As information zig-zags through our brains, it is the myelin sheath that keeps everything slippery.  If our brains are well oiled machines, the myelin is the oil.  It's what allows the zigging and the zagging to occur seamlessly.  When the oil breaks down, we get ruts.  Messages may get stuck.  At least, that's the way I understand this whole concept.  Mark Noble in Rochester, NY observed the late onset damage to myelin caused by one chemotherapy drug: 5FU.  It is in need of a tune up, a repair, something.....  and there is an organization that is attempting to find ways to reverse this damage.  The Myelin Repair Foundation funds research specific to multiple sclerosis but I fervently believe that any brain breakthroughs are going to translate across many different diseases.

Neurogenesis is the creation of new brain cells.  Most of this happens before birth and throughout childhood.  There is a limited amount of new brain cells that can be created in an adult brain.  Typically, this occurs in the area of the brain where memories are formed and stored.  If there is damage to that area of the brain from other chemotherapy drugs, there may be a problem with creation of new cells and trickling down from there, a memory issue.  

This leads me to neuroplasticity.  Until a few years ago, it was thought that an adult brain was sort of cemented.  The pathways that our brains use to do various things were believed to be fixed and unchangeable.  Not so fast.  If paths are broken or blocked, neuroplasticity may be a way around those broken paths, a way of forging new paths.  What Is Neuroplasticity? is a website that was designed by someone who did lots of homework.  This is NOT a medical site, indeed I have no idea who designed the site or provided the information.  I only know this was the easiest explanation I could find.  And, the links provided are to well-respected researchers.  It seems neuroplasticity is my best shot at real resolution of the mess in my head.  No more "work around" solutions.

And finally, there is Coursera.  And my quite lofty goal of actually starting and completing this online class.  Perhaps we should start a betting pool.  The blog pool.  I can't see how I get through this thing if I can't wrap my brain around my own brain... but..... I'm giving it a shot.  It starts on March 31st.  Runs for 9 weeks.  I'm counting on you to nag me through it.

Synapses, Neurons and Brains

Idan Segev

You will become intimately acquainted with the operational principles of neuronal “life-ware” (synapses, neurons and the networks that they form) as well as with recent ideas about how the dynamics of these networks generate the “neuronal code.” As an aperitif we will highlight present brain-excitements and for dessert we will discuss the future of brain research


  1. I'll do more than nag you through the course--I'll be right there with you trying to wrap my poor, pasty brain around the concepts.

  2. dear anne marie,

    wow, any course that has an appertif AND dessert - well, I'M IN!

    one thing i've noticed with chemobrain - and this was true for hugh as well - is that i seem to be somewhat sharper if i am well hydrated. of, course, almost all body systems work more effectively with adequate fluid intake, but i have a life long aversion to drinking water, so am very aware when i am glugging H20 like a champ and feel less mentally clumsy, less organizationally challenged. but okay - wait for it - most often, i FORGET to drink water! GRRR.

    i hope all worked out with your mom's treatment day - hugs to you both.

    love, XOXO

    karen, TC

    1. Thanks, Karen!

      I've been running like a nut since Monday and I haven't had a chance to let you know I saw this and I'm going to be find a way to make sure I drink enough water.

      Perhaps a post it note in my TO DO BIBLE?????


  3. As Trauma Brain Injury has become very severe issue from the couple of years. Your report about the brain injury in military men is very informative and helpful to fight against this severe disease. So the awareness about brain disease not only cut down these severe disease but also help the patients. Thank you so much for your good work. traumatic brain injury

    1. Thank you for sharing the link to TBI page. I DO believe what will help in ANY area will translate to many. Someone very near and very dear to me has suffered a TBI from a horrific car accident. The late effects of that injury have changed the course of this young person's life. It's heartbreaking. We simply must do better.


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