Brain Awareness Week: Pt. 1, The Anatomy & Physiology of the Brain

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The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiative launched Brain Awareness Week (BAW) back in 1996. The Hydrocephalus Association proudly partners with the Dana Foundation for this global campaign to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. This global coalition of BAW partners includes more than 2000 universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, patient groups, museums, government agencies, services organizations, and professional associations.

For 2011, BAW is March 14-20.  To celebrate BAW we will be running a series of blogs to increase our understanding of the brain, hydrocephalus and to explore the many ways we can all make a difference in increasing hydrocephalus research.

For more educational resources on the brain go to the Dana Foundation BAW website

Part I: Anatomy and Physiology of the Brain (From: AboutHydrocephalus A book for Families)

Illustration of hydrocephalus physiology

Brain, Spinal Cord and Their Protective Coverings:

The brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system. These vital structures are surrounded and protected by the bones of the skull and the vertebral column, as shown in the drawing on the opposite page. The bones of the skull are often referred to as the cranium. In infants, the skull is actually composed of separate bones, and an infant’s soft spot (anterior fontanel) is an area where four skull bones nearly come together. The places where the bones meet and grow are called sutures. The vertebral column, which encases the entire spinal cord, is composed of bones called vertebrae. The spinal column begins at the base of the skull and extends all the way down to the tailbone.

The brain’s major components are the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain stem. The cerebrum is the central processing area for the body’s incoming and outgoing messages. It is also the area responsible for speech, thought and memory. The cerebellum primarily helps coor­dinate our body movements. The brain stem controls basic functions like heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. The spinal cord extends from the brain stem, through a very large opening (the foramen mag­num) in the base of the skull, and down the spine. At the level of each vertebra in the spine, nerve fibers arise from the spinal cord and emerge through openings between the vertebrae. These are the spinal nerves, which carry messages to and from various regions of our bod­ies.

Lying between the brain and skull are three other pro­tective coverings. These are the membranes (meninges), which completely surround the brain and spinal cord. An important fluid—the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)—flows in a space between these membranes that is called the subarachnoid space. CSF is essentially salt water, and it is in constant circulation and serves several important functions. The brain floats in CSF.

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