"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

The Brain and Mental Illness

The human brain is a tremendous organ. It controls memory and learning, the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch) and emotions. It also controls other parts of the body, including muscles, organs, and blood vessels.

The brain can also be a really complex structure. It comprises billions of nerve cells – called neurons – that must communicate and work together for the body to operate normally. The neurons communicate via electrical signals. Special chemicals called neurotransmitters help transmit these electrical messages from neuron to neuron.

Information is fed into the brain via the senses. What is heard, felt, tasted, seen or smelled is recorded by receptors in or on the body and transmitted to the brain via sensory neurons. The brain decides what to do with the knowledge from the senses and tells the body how you can respond by sending messages through motor neurons. For example, when an individual puts their hand near something hot, the sense of touch tells the brain concerning the heat, and the brain sends a message to the arm muscles to maneuver the hand away. Another kind of neuron – called interneurons – connect various neurons within the brain and spinal cord, which together form the central nervous system.

Just as there are various kinds of neurons, there are also various kinds of chemical neurotransmitters. Researchers who study mental illness imagine that abnormalities within the functioning of certain brain circuits contribute to the event of many mental illnesses. Connections between nerve cells along specific pathways or circuits within the brain could cause problems processing information within the brain and result in abnormal mood, pondering, perception, or behavior.

Researchers also imagine that changes in the dimensions or shape of various parts of the brain could also be chargeable for the event of some mental illnesses.