Science Article Essay

7076 Words Jun 24th, 2014 29 Pages
Edexcel GCE

Biology
Advanced Unit 5: Energy, Exercise and Coordination
June 2010 Scientific Article for use with Question 7
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Scientific Article for use with Question 7 It’s All in the Mind The link between the brain as a physical organ and what we feel in our conscious mind has long been the subject of research, particularly where we appear to be unable to control aspects of mood or behaviour and where normal life is affected. Stress, pain and depression can be explained in terms of nerve impulses and brain chemistry, and the causes of Parkinson’s disease are well understood, but finding reliable
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In the long term it is even possible that such treatments could be modified to enhance normal brain function, for example improving memory or alertness. The technology could also lead to spectacular advances in basic neuroscience, allowing researchers to tease apart the neural circuits that control everything from reflexes to consciousness with unprecedented accuracy. “We’ll be able to understand how specific cell types in the brain give rise to fuzzy concepts like hope and motivation,” predicts Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist at Stanford University in California, who is spearheading some of the work. These new possibilities materialised when neuroscientists finally cracked a long-standing problem in their field: how to take control of individual neurons. We’ve known since the 18th century that zapping neurons with a wire electrode triggers an electrical spike. This approach has provided much of our knowledge of brain function: scientists have inserted electrodes into the brains of flies, mice and monkeys, zapped away, and observed what happened.

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Neurologists also use electrodes to treat medical disorders. Depressed patients who don’t respond to medication are sometimes given electroconvulsive therapy via scalp electrodes, or vagal nerve stimulation using a device implanted in the neck. Tremor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease

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