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How Neurons Work

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Neurons and How They Work Underneath the newfangled cortex, the brain stem, the lymbic system, and the basal ganglia date back to the mastodons, the dinosaurs, and the first amphibians. In humans, the old parts of the brain oversee emotion and help build memories. They control heart rate and breathing. They also form intimate connections with the new brain: the cortex. Though less than a quarter inch thick, the cortex is the brain's crowning glory. Among its roles, the cortex is our reality check. It filters and orders the outside world for us and allows us to see, touch, hear, and speak. The cortex is also the human thinking cap. All our plans, thoughts and ideas originate in this layer. The cortex is packed with nerve cells: About two thirds of all our neurons operate here. A piece of cortex tissue, no larger than a pinhead, can house 30,000 of these cells. Each neuron has the job to communicate with other neurons. The brain works by forming networks among these cells. The long spiny branches of the networks create a neuro-forest of astounding intricacy. Neurons use these communication lines to talk to each other with electric and chemical signals. Here, under a microscope are two neurons linking up. Though it may look like they fuse together, neurons don't actually touch each other. A closer look reveals that a tiny gap, called a synapse, separates their branches. This is where a message passes from one neuron to the next. The message comes from here: small sacks that store chemical molecules. When stimulated, these sacks release their molecules, which cross the cell membrane into the synaptic gap. An electric zap allows this to happen. Meantime, the receiving neuron has special welcome sites for the incoming molecules. These receptor sites bind with the molecules. When they do, special gates open up. The gates let in a flood of charged particles, sodium and potassium ions, which start up a new electrical signal in the receiving neuron. This simple chain of events, an electrical zap followed by chemical changes, followed by another electrical zap, is the basis of all brain activity. It's how neurons speak to each other. Here then, is the key to the brain's complexity: there are a hundred billion neurons in the brain. Each neuron, like a bit player in a grand production, processes its information, then hooks up with as many as 50,000 other neurons to send and receive messages. A hundred billion neurons times 50,000 connections. It's this complexity that allows us to think imaginatively. On their own, neurons aren't very bright, but put a hundred billion of them together in a small space and let them all start talking to each other, and you start to get brainstorms. The trillions of neural networks, like an improvisational orchestra, create new ideas and connect different thoughts in a whimsical, and sometimes inspired, fashion. It's this impromptu ability to produce new things in our brains that allows us to progress, that quite simply takes us from here to here.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 51 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Discovery Channel
Director: Unknown
Views: 230
Posted by: beatrizfigthorn on Oct 18, 2010

Brief description of how neurons work.

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