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Human Brain

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What weighs about three pounds but has more parts than there are stars in the

Milky Way galaxy (Flieger)? What fills the space occupied by only three pints

of milk yet includes components that, laid end to end, would stretch several

hundred thousand miles (Diagram 19)? What looks like an oversized walnut

made of soft, grayish-pink cheese but contains the equivalent of 100 trillion tiny

calculators (Restak, Brain 27)? What, according to James Watson,

co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA, is "the most complex thing we

have yet discovered in our universe" (qtd. in Begley 66)? To all four of these

intriguing questions there is but one surprising answer: the human brain. This

miraculous organ is remarkable in its structure, its function, and its chemical composition.

What is the brain? According to Richard Restak,

the human brain is the master control center of the

body. The brain constantly receives information from

the senses about conditions both inside the body and

outside it. The brain rapidly analyzes this information

and then sends out messages that control body

functions and actions. ("Brain" 561)

According to Tether, the brain is divided into three main parts: the cerebrum, the

cerebellum, and the brain stem (421). These parts, in turn, are largely made up of

nerve cells, called neurons, and helper cells, called glia. Researchers have

discovered that there may be as many as 100 billion neurons in the brain and a far

greater number of glia, possibly as many as one trillion (Kolb and Whishaw 1).

Important discoveries throughout the decade of the 1990's in molecular biology

and genetics are revolutionizing our understanding of how the human brain works

(Kotulak ix). Advances in imaging technology are allowing us to learn more about

the human brain than ever before in human history (Kotulak x). Keith A. Johnson

and J. Alex Becker have even placed "The Whole Brain Atlas," which

consists of dozens of images of the brain in normal, damaged, and diseased

states, on the World Wide Web for anyone with access to the Internet to view

and study.

One area of the new brain research reveals that the first three years of a child's

life are crucial to the development of the brain. Proper stimulation of infants can,

according to Kotulak, affect the development of language, vision, brain power,

aggression, emotions, touch, and education (9-11). An editorial in the New York

Times states that the importance of early stimulation--to promote the healthy brain

development in children--is a "compelling argument for the expansion of support

for new parents and of quality child care programs" ("Nurturing"). North Carolina,

Vermont, Colorado, and Ohio are implementing programs to offer support services

to families with young children ("Nurturing").

Works Cited

Begley, Sharon, et al. "Mapping the Brain."



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