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Brain Abnormalities: Causes & Symptoms

Brain Abnormalities: Causes & Symptoms
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  • 0:03 Overview of Brain…
  • 0:32 Parts and Purpose of the Brain
  • 1:49 Causes and Symptoms of…
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashli Wilson

Ashli has a Master's Degree in Biology and has taught biology at different grade levels including college, elementary, and middle school.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the parts of the brain and their functions. We'll also learn about the causes and symptoms of three brain abnormalities: anencephaly, brain aneurysms, and anterograde amnesia.

Overview of Brain Abnormalities

One reason why you are able to read and interpret this lesson right now is because of your brain. The ability to recognize and understand words is just one function that can be affected by a brain abnormality. A brain abnormality is any structural change in the brain, some of which can be fatal. Before we discuss different brain abnormalities and their causes and symptoms, let's discuss the function and importance of the parts of the brain.

Parts and Purpose of the Brain

Think of the brain as the coach of a basketball team and the parts of the body as the players. The coach is responsible for sending and receiving information to and from the team, while the team acts on the information received from the coach. In much the same way, the brain uses nerve impulses, or signals, to tell the body what to do, and the body both responds and sends information back to the brain. Brain-body interactions are responsible for our ability to breathe, smell and walk; intellect and reason are also the work of the brain.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is responsible for creating and sending nerve impulses to the rest of the body, just like runners pass the baton in a relay race. During this process, nerve impulses develop in the cerebrum and then travel to the cerebellum, or 'little brain.' The cerebellum then passes the nerve impulses to the brain stem, the gateway to the spinal cord. The spinal cord extends from the brain down the back and helps transmit signals to and from this organ to the rest of the body.

Another important part of the brain is the hippocampus a seahorse-shaped part of the brain located above the brain stem. The hippocampus is responsible for long-term and short-term memory. Here, the hippocampus is illustrated in red:

Hippocampus

Causes and Symptoms of Major Brain Abnormalities

Now that we know a little bit about the parts and purposes of the brain, let's discuss three major brain abnormalities that impact its different parts. These include anencephaly, brain aneurysms, and anterograde amnesia.

Anencephaly is characterized by a lack of parts in the cerebellum, cerebrum, and skull in a fetus or newborn; after birth, a deformed head is the primary symptom. Anencephaly occurs during the first month of pregnancy, when the brain and spinal cord do not completely develop. Genes and a lack of folic acid, as well as drinking and smoking during pregnancy, can contribute to the condition. Anencephaly occurs in one in 4,859 fetuses, and because there is no treatment, almost always leads to death within days after birth. Although doctors and scientists don't really understand why, Hispanic women are more likely to have a baby with anencephaly, which can be detected during routine screenings during pregnancy.

Brain aneurysms are another abnormality of the brain, which like a bump in a tire, can cause damage, weakness, and an eventual blow out. Brain aneurysms are bulging spots in the brain's arteries that can weaken the artery wall and eventually cause one to burst. If a brain aneurysm bursts, it causes blood to flow into the skull. The rupture prevents oxygen from reaching parts of the brain and causes increased pressure in the skull, which can result in death.

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