The brain is what makes you YOU!
It’s also commonly known as your “head”, grey cells, thinking organ – in the end, it comes down to one: about 3 lb tissue with specialized cells, which we call neurons:
Your stomach digests food, your lungs breathe air, your heart pumps blood – but what does your brain actually do? It’s responsible for making you walk? It’s responsible for making you cheerful, annoyed, and sad? It also operates at night and lets you dream? It steers your heart? It lets you think?
The brain does all of the above and indeed makes you that, what you are. With over a hundred billion neurons and a billion connections between all these neurons, it is the most complex organ in your body, and does not stop developing until your mid-20s.
It is important to take care of your brain – you are responsible for it and that it remains healthy! Some tips for how you can take care of your “central command” include: increasing your physical and psychological well-being, nourishing your health, pursuing physical activity, getting enough rest, reducing your stress levels, not taking drugs or overconsuming alcohol and avoiding injuries, which can arise, for example, when someone’s head is injured.
Like other organs in your body, your brain can also become sick. It can hurt. When your digestive system is sick, you run. When your lungs are sick, you cough. But what do you think happens when your brain is sick? Now, as you can imagine, the answer is not so easy.
Depending on which brain region is affected, people, for example, can suffer seizures, hear voices, be totally depressed, have a forgetful memory or become drug-addicted. It’s most important to understand that none of the mentioned diseases are contagious. Yes, you are right – it is important to take care of mentally ill people, to spend time with them, and not speak or gossip about them and treat them with empathy. Mentally ill people are no different than physically-impaired people, and so you should not stigmatize or ostracize the latter nor should you laugh about them.
In addition, it is important to understand that you need medication when your brain is sick – postponing a visit to the doctor can be deleterious: the longer you wait, the more severe the outcome could be. And be patient: it can take some time for the proper therapy for you to be identified. But considering the complexity of the brain, that should not be surprising.
Pass on your knowledge! As long as people continue not knowing how the brain functions, they will not be able to associate mental illness with the brain. Although the stigma associated with mental illness has been decreasing due to education efforts, the way forward remains long and hard but nonetheless important to pursue; slowly but surely people will understand that prevention is better than therapy, not just from a financial perspective.
Our goal is to clarify and disseminate information regarding the brain’s functioning to the public. Thus, we hope to foster greater understanding around the different brain regions, their functioning, and communication with one another through brief presentations. We also discuss everyday factors, such as stress, drugs and medications, sleep deprivation, that influence learning and memory.
Our Brain Awareness activities in Ghana and Kenya do not take the form of top-down teaching, instead, we encourage dialogue and joint-discussion on these topics.
Some of these activities teach the basic fundamentals of Neuroscience, for example.
“What is a neuron?”
“How do neurons communicate with one another?”
“How do different brains look like?”
“How can we protect our brains?”
Our short-term goal is kicking off an exchange of ideas and discussion regarding culture, society, and neuroscience principles.
We, thus, hope that awareness on these topics will increase long-term visibility. Another goal of ours is to inspire the next young generation of scientists.