As our knowledge of how the brain works increases, so it is possible to
devise appropriate treatments for different disorders of the brain.
The brain is so delicate and complex that there are many causes of
Sadly, its hard to repair damage to any part of
the central nervous system - anything faulty in spinal cord or brain.
Lots of things can go wrong with the central
nervous system e.g. physical injuries to the brain or spinal cord from
severe impacts in accidents, tumours from pathogen caused mutations,
diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
All of these are difficult to treat, one reason
being the difficulty in repairing damage to the neurones in the CNS, the
neurones cannot repair themselves and we have not yet devised techniques
to repair damaged nerve tissue.
Any operation to remove a brain tumour is
tricky, and it is difficult to avoid damage to surrounding areas of
otherwise healthy brain tissue.
Such damage can leave the patient with
problems with speech or vision.
In some cases, no treatment is impossible e.g.
it is not possible to remove tumours growing certain regions of the
Surgery on a patient with spinal cord damage
risks further damage to the spinal cord, which can cause permanent
paralysis - loss of movement capability because nerve signals from
the brain can't get through to the effector cells.
Neurones in the nerve systems cannot readily repair themselves and
medical science hasn't found a way yet to repair nerve tissue.
Cell differentiation is the process by which a less specialized
cell becomes a more specialized cell type. Once neurones have
differentiated they don't undergo mitosis - they can't divide to
replace lost neurones.
Medical research scientists are investigating the use of stem
cells to replace damaged tissues of cells in the nervous system -
the idea being to get stem cells to differentiate and change into
The use of stem cells raises ethical issues - the use of
embryonic stem cells offends many people because destroying an
embryo is destroying a potential life. Others would argue curing
somebody of a very disabling medical condition should override other
moral considerations - a tricky one! and lots more dilemmas to come
as medical science gets cleverer and cleverer!
Any treatment of a central nervous system disorder carries risks of
further permanent damage.
A stroke in the brain
may be caused by a blocked artery or the
leaking or bursting of a blood vessel causing brain damage. Some
people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to the
brain. The former is much more serious and can lead to permanent brain
After a stroke, depending on which area of the brain is affected, you
can be left with paralysis down one side of your body - mobility
problems, speech, vision and memory impairment.
If treatment is initiated rapidly, its amazing how good patient
recovery can be.
is a progressive disease of the nervous system
characterised by involuntary shaking of the body - tremors, muscular
rigidity, and slow imprecise movement. It mainly affects middle-aged and
elderly people. It is caused by the brain becoming progressively damaged by
loss of nerve cells over a period of many years.
Although there's currently no cure for Parkinson's disease,
treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain
quality of life for as long as possible.
supportive treatments – such as physiotherapy and
in some cases, brain surgery
electrical stimulation using tiny electrodes has been used to
reduce muscle tremors in nervous system disorders like
Serious head injuries
from a physical impact to the head in an accident can lead to brain damage.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative condition of the
brain, which means the symptoms develop gradually over many years and
eventually become more severe.
It affects multiple brain functions e.g. memory problems, confusion,
disorientation and getting lost in familiar places, difficulty planning
or making decisions, problems with speech and language, problems moving
around or performing self-care tasks and personality changes. Its
basically the brain degenerating as you get older and difficult to
Spinal cord injuries in an accident can cause paralysis of the
Surgery for a spinal cord injury carries the risk of permanent and
greater injury e.g. paralysis.
Brain cancer tumours will cause disruption of brain function and
the surgery to remove them carries high risks of further brain damage.
Depending on the part of the brain affected where the tumour is
growing, some tumours can be treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy,
other tumours can be removed surgically, but others cannot be dealt with
Since you cannot be always sure of completely
removing all of the cancerous tissue of a tumor, post-surgery treatment
may include radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
In removing a brain tumour you might, however inadvertently, damage
other areas of the brain adjacent to where the tumour was.
As with any invasive surgery, there is always a
risk of infection.
Whatever the treatment on offer, you have to make
a decision based on benefits (potentially increasing life span)
versus risk (brain damage and limited capability of life).
Medical scientists are always looking for safer
and more effective treatments e.g.
monoclonal antibodies and gene therapy might
used to treat brain cancer,
and stem cell culture techniques may help to
repair damaged nerve tissue.
Be able to explain some of the causes of brain damage.
Be able to explain some of the risks and consequences of
Describe some possible treatments of brain damage.
Explain the severe consequences if the spinal cord is
Be able to explain what a stroke is, what causes it and
potential brain damage.
Be able to describe Parkinson's disease, what it is and its
Be able to describe Alzheimer's disease what it is and its
Appreciate the dangers and consequences of brain cancer -
formation of tumours on the brain
Explain why boxers are more susceptible to brain damage than
the average person.