The Nervous System
The Nervous System
Anatomy and Psychology course generalizes the explanations in understanding how the body functions. The nervous system is one of the sub topics taught in Anatomy and Psychology. It is the most complex part of the body since it governs thoughts, feelings and other bodily functions along with the endocrine system. The study of the nervous system is important because it may lead to new discoveries that may help cure some diseases. It has helped in reducing death rates from stroke, shock and heart diseases. Disorders and functional difficulties of the nervous system result to neural diseases. It is important to understand the etiology, prevalence, symptoms, diagnostic testing and treatment protocols for such diseases.
Keywords: neurons, brain, nerves, receptors, dopamine, substantia nigra, corpus striatum
The Nervous System
The nervous system is designed to sense both internal and external changes of the environment. It is a system of extremely fragile nerve cells, ornately interlaced with each other. In order to maintain a homeostasis, the nervous system interprets the changes and coordinates the suitable responses within the body. It works by coordinating the associated organs together. These are the cranial nerves, the brain, spinal nerves and the spinal cord. Therefore, the system is a network of neurons that transfer information to the brain for interpretation.
Understanding the neurons in this study is important. Neurons are the micro minute organisms in the nervous system that are responsible for sending message to the brain and back to the organs. Neurons have two important structures: the axon and the dendrites. The axons are responsible for relaying messages between the dendrites of the neuron and presynaptic terminal while the dendrites receive impulses from other dendrites. Once there is a change in the body, neurons carry information to the brain cells via axons. The message is then passed through the synapse, which is the space between the axon and the adjacent neuron. The changes received are interpreted by the brain receptors and sent back to the respective sensory organs such as the ears, the eyes and the skin.
Etiology. Many scientists have been intrigued to understand the causes of Parkinson’s disease. In the brain, there is a substance called dopamine. It acts as an envoy between the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum areas of the brain to provide even movements. Therefore, patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s lack this substance in their brain because the dopamine-producing cell in their substantia nigra has been lost (Pfeiffer, Wszolek, and Manuchair 25). As dopamine levels drop, worse motor-related symptom are experienced. However, researchers have not found the reason why dopamine levels reduce in the brain. Thus, they have concluded that stress, inflammation and dysfunctional cellular processes are the causes of deteriorating dopamine-producing cells.
Prevalence. In the world, approximately 5 million people have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In the United States, statistics have indicated that 1 million people suffer from it. Demographics have indicated that person’s of 60 years or older are the most affected. Only 1percent of people at 60 years suffer from this disease worldwide while approximately 4 percent develops in those aged 80 years and above (Carranza, Davenport, Zesiewicz and Snyder 107). However, the onset of this disease exists between 21 to 40 years. The overall life expectancy of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease is rising. This is an indication that more people are likely to develop this disease in the future.
Symptoms. Parkinson’s disease is the second most frequent movement and neurodegenerative disorder. The disease is characterized by symptoms that are both related to the voluntary and involuntary motor functioning of the body, which usually starts by affecting one part of the body. The patient occasionally has trembling arms, feet, jaws, hands or head. Their limbs and trunk are normally rigid and this increases whenever they move. They may complain of pain and muscle aches that are caused by rigidity. Bradykinesia is the third primary symptom. This is the slow movement observed whenever they are moving voluntarily. At later stages, they may have impaired or lost reflexes. Therefore, they have a hard time maintaining balance and changing postures. This is commonly referred to as postural instability. Patients at the most advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease have the parkinsonian gait symptom. This refers to the stages when they have developed a characteristic shuffling walk in a hunched position. The secondary causes are stress, confusion, anxiety, dementia, constipation, male erectile dysfunction, insecurity and depression.
Diagnostic Testing. A specific test for Parkinson’s disease has not been identified. Testing can only be done when the patient is dead. This is because it has similar symptoms as compared to multiple system atrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, encephalitis, corticobasal degeneration and stroke (Simuni, Tanya, and Rajesh Pahwa 118). This has resulted to several misdiagnoses where patients with Parkinson’s disease are considered to suffer from those diseases or vice versa. Therefore, trained neurologists carry out assessments to come up with the most accurate diagnosis. The patients’ medical history, the drugs they have been taking, whether they have been exposed to toxins and repetitive head trauma in the past is assessed. Neurologists also evaluate their motor tasks and coordination. The Hoehn and Yahr scale have also bee used to rule out other diseases in the diagnosis of this disease.
Treatment Protocols. The treatment of Parkinson’s disease is not yet known. However, several therapies have been discovered that work in delaying the inception of motor symptoms. These therapies work under three rules: increasing the amounts of dopamine in the brain, replacing dopamine and prolonging its effect in the brain (McNamara 203). At earlier stages, patients are given dopamine agonists that mimic dopamine and monoamine oxidase type B that reduces the breaking down of dopamine in the brain. Levodopa is the most effectual treatment though prolonged use results to bizarre side effects such as involuntary movements. It is normally combined with carbidopa, which prevents levadopa from breaking down before reaching the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is a nervous related disease. It results due to the dysfunction of the nervous system. Neurologists have succeeded in coming up with new methods that can help them differentiate the illness from other diseases with similar symptoms. Innovations on the treatment of this disease have been made. Scientists have been able to conduct deep brain stimulation (DBS) in patients with advanced stages of the disease (Friedman 56). This method works by implanting electrodes that stimulate brain areas involve with movement. In addition, scientists are still exploring the possibility of using dopamine–providing cells that are present in the stem cells. These innovations are yet to be actualized. Neurologists also suggest that patients should adopt changes in their lifestyles. They have to exercise on a regular basis and rest. Attending occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy may be beneficial to their health.
Carranza, Davenport, Zesiewicz and Snyder. Parkinson’s Disease. A Guide to Medical Treatment. Torino: Italy, 2013. Internet resource.
Friedman, Joseph H. Making the Connection between Brain and Behavior: Coping with Parkinson’s Disease. New York, NY: Demos Health, 2008. Internet resource.
McNamara, Patrick. The Cognitive Neuropsychiatry of Parkinson’s Disease. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2011. Internet resource.
Pfeiffer, Wszolek, and Manuchair. Parkinson’s Disease. Broken Sound Parkway: CRC Press, 2013. Internet resource.
Simuni, Tanya, and Rajesh Pahwa. Parkinson’s Disease. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Internet resource.
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