By Prof. Dr. Hafiz M. Rafique
The most important and the complex organ of the human body is the brain which is located in the head and protected by the skull. The brain controls the central nervous system of the whole body. An alive human brain is soft like tofu and has a gel-like uniformity. The weight of an adult brain ranges from 1.3 to 1.5 kg with a volume of about 1260 cm3 in men and 1130 cm3 in women. However, some exceptions are also there regarding size and volume of male and female brains.
A normal human brain comprises blood vessels, glial cells and neurons. On average, a human brain contains 100 billion neurons. A neuron is a nerve cell that processes or transmits information from the brain to other parts of the body by means of chemical and electrical changes. Neurons are linked with each other to form neural networks throughout the body. The total length of the neurons is equivalent to a string that can be wrapped around the equator of the earth 4.5 times.
Although scientists have identified many functions of the brain and learnt how it investigates many things such as smell, hearing, speech, vision, face recognition, taste, touch, pressure, memory etc., they still do not know how the brain conceives an idea, how we think, how we learn, how we remember and how certain diseases start at a particular diseases such as Dementia. What is the secret behind aging and how it can be stopped or slow down? What is the secret behind the IQ of a normal and a genius person? An enormous mystery of the brain is still waiting to be unlocked. A complete dynamic picture of the brain is required for better understanding of all such things.
Scientists, researchers and medical doctors use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine to investigate numerous functions, ongoing processes and activity of the brain. Using fMRI, they take images of different parts and tissues of the brain and derive information from these images about different diseases, working and activity of the brain. The human thoughts controls blood flow of the body and different blood flows produce different images. An fMRI can also be used to identify whether a person is telling a lie or not. The fMRI images also tell us about the mood of the person whether he/she is happy or sad because only certain parts of the brain are highlighted in the fMRI image according to the mood and situation. This facility is being exploited by lawyers and legal experts to resolve several sensitive and important legal matters and inquiries in advance countries.
The US President, Barak Obama, has allocated $100m for a project to unveil and unlock the secrets of the human brain. The name of the project is BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). This project will help understand the functioning of the brain and basic reasons behind certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s etc. and many other mental disorders a lot better. The project will also be beneficial to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that how individual cells and complex neural circuits work together at the speed of thoughts. In a statement, the US president said that man had discovered far-off galaxies and identified many secrets behind the subatomic particles using his brain but his understanding about his own brain was still unlimited.
If positive results come out from this project, it will revolutionize the world. For example, many diseases could be controlled before time and it will lower the cost of health budget and the saved amount could be used in other projects to explore new horizons, uncover many other secrets of the universe and the secrets behind the human brain.
(The writer is Punjab University Physics Department Chairman and Member Syndicate on Associate Professor’s seat. He can be reached at: email@example.com)