The brain is a very complex organ. Thanks to technological advances, we are now able to better understand how it operates. Our knowledge on the brain keeps evolving and the functions of different brain regions is now clearer than ever. But understanding its full capability can only be achieved by combining some disciplines of science. One major discipline is brain science, which grows daily, fueling curiosity on several aspects of the brain.
Currently, these are 5 of the biggest questions in brain science:
Is Genetic Testing Reliable in Preventing Disease?
Genetic testing is important because it helps you to discover and understand your medical history. The National Human Genome Research Institute says that genetic research has provided new ways to prevent and treat disease using personalized medicine.
Genetic tests and genomic technology applications increase the probability of avoiding common diseases, which means improving individual and population health. There are thousands of diseases for which genetic tests have been developed. Some tests explore single genes and diagnose rare genetic disorders. More tests are currently being developed to assess multiple genes which may increase or decrease your risk of diseases such as diabetes.
But even though this testing is changing our view on preventive medicine, there are several security and ethical issues surrounding it. There are ongoing debates concerning how these genetic tests should be implemented and how they should be used.
Genetic tests are based on limited scientific information. They may be unable to provide useful or valid results to tested individuals. The tests proven valid and useful, such as those for hereditary ovarian cancer, are not used extensively. This is partly due to limited research on how to implement these tests across communities.
The CDC Blog expresses the agency’s position against mandatory genetic tests for the general population, especially outside research settings. The agency recommends dialogue to assess when and how genetic screening should be used to save lives by preventing disease.
What are the effects of Social Media on our Emotional health?
There are several ways social media can affect our mental health. In 2013, a study showed that using Facebook can decrease one’s satisfaction in life and moment-to-moment happiness. Spending too much time on Facebook may affect a person’s wellbeing because it evokes an awareness of social isolation.
Social media is addictive. A study by Nottingham University reviewed previous studies assessing personality, psychological characteristics, and social media use. It concluded that because an addiction condition appears in some individuals who excessively use social networks, Facebook Addiction Disorder is a possibility.
Social media can make you feel socially isolated because you compare yourself to others, judging whether you meet their standards. Whether the comparisons are positive or negative does not matter since any comparison on social media can lead to depression.
The comparison issue on social media can also lead to jealousy. On Facebook alone, the number of envy episodes taking place is shocking. It may be a breeding ground for unpleasant feelings which may trigger a vicious cycle. Envying others can make you want to appear better than them, triggering competition and leading to a never ending cycle.
In 2017, another study concluded that enhanced feelings of social isolation can be generated by social media use. According to the study, the more time individuals spent on social media platforms, the more their awareness of social isolation increased.
What is the Effect of Insufficient Sleep on Our Brains?
Effects of sleep deficiency can occur instantly or accumulate over time. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains that sleep allows your brain to function optimally. Learning is enhanced after a good night’s sleep. Sleep also boosts creativity and increases concentration.
Inadequate sleep has been linked to lower levels of Ghrelin and Leptin hormones. Ghrelin is responsible for appetite stimulation while leptin alerts the brain when you have had enough food. Low levels of these hormones throw your body into havoc and lead to food cravings, even when you have eaten. For a quick energy boost, you may eat unhealthy food.
Your brain undergoes noticeable changes in activity following sleep deprivation. Aspects of cognitive function such as logical reasoning, mathematical capacity, and working memory are compromised. In addition, your level of concentration goes down.
Insufficient sleep negatively affects your hippocampus, the critical region for new memory consolidation. This makes it difficult for you to recall new information. Sleep deprivation may result in astrocytes (star-shaped brain cells) consuming portions of brain synapses, leading to an increase in broken down brain connections.
Does Marijuana Consumption Boost Memory?
Marijuana users say that it makes them feel more relaxed, distorts time, and heightens their senses. The short-term effects of marijuana, according to Harvard University, are impaired judgment, thinking, memory, and coordination. The stimulant also disrupts your ability to focus and assimilate information.
Teenage marijuana users may struggle with poor memory, brain fog, and learning difficulty later on in their lives. This is because marijuana’s active chemicals influence brain cell receptors that respond to chemicals. These receptors actively participate in brain development.
Marijuana impairs your memory through its main psychoactive ingredient, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC damages your short-term memory by preventing your brain from converting short-term into long-term memory.
THC, a steroid, alters how your hippocampus processes information by preventing memory recovery. The hippocampus is the part of your brain in charge of memory and emotions. THC also changes how your brain manages sensory data. It destroys nerve cells, consequently lowering their activity.
With marijuana in your system, your brain cannot register any new information. Information is not retained and your brain can only retrieve new information for a few minutes.
Can Neuroscience Be Used To Enhance Mental Capabilities?
Technological advances have helped increase our understanding on what influences the brain. Cognitive enhancement methods have been applied to expand the range and proficiency of the mental activities we engage in.
Two of the greatest challenges in our world are minimizing the effects of brain disorders and exploring the possibility of mind enhancement.
New tools that support the understanding of the brain’s mechanisms and improve mental resilience by testing interventions are crucial to progress. Brain stimulation for enhanced mental function and relief of neurological symptoms has been in existence for some time now. It can enhance new nerve cell formation (neurogenesis) and the brain’s ability to rewire itself (neuroplasticity).
Neuro-enhancement is the heightening of cognitive functions using neuroscience-based techniques. It alters aspects of the human brain and nervous system, resulting in increased performance on specific cognitive tasks. It’s the newest technique that directly influences your nervous system to enhance cognitive function and increase capabilities.
Brain stimulation research is prompted by the success of neuroimaging studies which have identified cognitive function neural bases. There is now an increased possibility of altering brain activity directly by changing cognitive processes.
Neuro-enhancement can improve everyday life, boosting performance at work, school, and other areas. It enhances memory, attention, and other aspects of cognition.
Questions in brain science are never-ending. The curiosity on certain brain aspects is what keeps researchers looking for information to fill in the gaps. While these may be the 5 big questions, the list is endless. The brain is such a complicated organ and it is unclear how long research will take to uncover everything.