Final Project: Anatomy of the Human Brain

August 6, 2014

I chose to choose different areas of the brain, draw pictures of them, and write a little bit about each of their functions. I am really interested in the different areas of the brain and what they do. It was interesting to see that there are many different brain regions that have very similar functions and also very opposite functions, but they all come together in one great form of communication that allows us to perceive and interact with the world the way we do. I think it’s incredible!


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Final Project: Alzheimer’s Disease

August 6, 2014

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My project is a power point describing a series of events that an Alzheimer’s Patient may experience and what troubles they will have. I seperated my project into four sections, each describing a symptom of AD. I was interested in this topic because my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within the past 3 months so it is close to my heart as well as very interesting.


“Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer’s Association.” Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer’s Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2014.

“Coping With Alzheimer’s Disease in Daily Life.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.


“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s DiseaseNew.” Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.

 “Alzheimer’s Disease.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2014. Web. 28 July 2014.




Unfortunately, the blog will not let me upload my power point. I am going to take screen shots and upload them as soon as possible.

Final Project – Catatonic Depression and the Effectiveness of Electroconvulsive Therapy

August 6, 2014

This topic really interested me mostly because there are several myths about it and although it is common and one of the most effective treatments for this condition, the exact way in which ECT fixes the brain is not really well understood. So, I wanted to find out more about why it is used and if the myths were true. In my poster, I try to inform the reader about how the electricity is incorporated and show the effects of the treatment. I chose to do a poster because it is a fun way to convey information about a topic that is new to me. Also, it breaks down the information in a way that it can be recalled later.

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Powerpoint final project

August 6, 2014

This link will take you to Google drive. For maximum effect, download the original and open it as an actual powerpoint (.pptx) document. Then hit “enable editing” and put it in slideshow view. The works cited is located at the back of the powerpoint (when you press “exit” on the main page). I chose a powerpoint because I like working with them, and powerpoints are good at keeping readers engaged.

It’s about three common childhood neurological disorders: ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Dyslexia. The topic has always interested me. The powerpoint is kind of interactive, so you can compare the similarities and differences between the three conditions. One big similarity I want to point out is that none of them have cures. One interesting difference I want to point out is that some of the disorders have a visible effect on the brain that you can actually see in a scan, while other disorders (like autism) have no visible effect on the brain. In other words, we have a limited understanding of how to tell an autistic brain from a non-autistic brain. In many cases, our understanding of these disorders is quite limited. Also, there’s a lot of variety in the different forms that each of these disorders can take.

Memory and the Brain

August 6, 2014

Ok, so Word Documents are not permitted as a media form….sorry here goes…

I chose this medium because I felt I could convey the most information from an old-school, straight-up, report. I have always been interested in memory, and as a result, I chose this topic. Through this project, I am just trying to convey some interesting facts, and possible ways to keep your memory in the best shape possible.

The Human Brain

When rating organs by complexity and intricateness, the human mind may be at the top of the list, followed by the brains of various other animals. The inherent complexity of the brain, any brain for that matter, results in a plethora of encounters with extreme difficulty when studying it. One of the challenges of neuroscientists is understanding the mechanisms at play in the brain in respect to memory formation – diseases such as Alzheimer’s are, today, impossible to cure due to the obscure nature of memory in the brain. Understanding memory, and its formation, holds the key to increased human intelligence and treatments for various forms of neurological disorders, dementia being a forerunner on the list. Intelligence has led humans to the top of the food chain and the brain has played a critical role in humans being able to dominate the world with intelligence. Contemporary humans often overlook the power of the brain, and its everyday function and impact on lives which is vital in many, if not all, different facets of life.

The human mind usage myth, as purported by various Hollywood movies, (most recent of which are Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson and Limitless with Bradley Cooper) actually depicts the polar opposite of the reality. Humans do not only utilize 10-14% of their brain; the entire brain, 100%, is used all day, every day. In fact, even while asleep, most of the brain is still fully active doing very important activities such as repairing muscles, directing traffic, and consolidating memories. The Hollywood depiction of increasing human intelligence through the use of technology and medicine are farfetched and untruthful. However, mankind may still be able to make brains “smarter” by adding brain cells, either neurons or glia. A more natural method to increase intelligence would be to increase oxygen intake. More oxygen would result in a more efficient and powerful mind (Boyd).

The brain is relatively small compared to some of the super computers that we have today. However, the brain has more than a billion neurons, each of which can form over 1000 connections with other neurons. If each neuron did not form these connections, or synapses, then we would only have a couple of gigabytes of storage in our brains, the equivalent of a portable music player. With these synapses, neurons can mutually strengthen each other: with the combined force of a billion neurons, the human mind the capacity to hold up to 2.5 petabytes of memories, information, and experiences. One petabyte is a little over one million gigabytes and with this massive storage capacity, it becomes extremely hard for the brain to send out signals that say “sorry your memory disk is full.” If anyone completely filled up his/her brain’s memory capacity, he/she could store 300 years worth of continuous TV shows in his/her brain…in HD (Reber)! Moreover, the brain is so useful because it uses such little energy to run. On one of their episodes, Scishow compared the world’s fastest super computer, K, to the average human brain. They deduced that although K was able to process four times more operations per second and store ten times more information than the human brain, it required 9.9 million watts to run. The human brain requires a whopping 20. To put that into perspective, K has an annual operating cost of 10 million dollars and originally cost 1.25 billion dollars to create. Conversely, the brain costs nothing but food and oxygen intake. In addition to more energy and money, the K supercomputer takes up much more space; K takes up 672 datacenter racks each of which are seven feet high, 19 inches high, and 21 inches deep! This gives it a volume of nearly 20 cubic feet. On the other hand, the brain is the size of two fists put together which when converted into cubic feet is (approximately) 0.022389! K takes up over 900 times the space of a single brain. The battle of supercomputer versus brain might seem won by K in the specifications and sheer computing power, but when one digs a little bit deeper, the brain is more efficient, cost-effective, compact, and mobile.

Understanding memories is a complicated and ambitious endeavor. Making memories is a very complicated process which involves most of one’s senses. When something is remembered, the whole experience is remembered, not just one particular sense of that object or phenomenon. Take for example, the memory of a grandmother. When first meeting one’s grandma (or anyone for that matter, as xenophobes will attest), she is foreign, unknown, and uncomforting; the senses, disregarding the initial appeal, store multiple pieces of information about her. Her appearance, the sound of her voice, and her scent are all stored immediately after the first meeting. Once these senses do their job, the information is sent up, as multiple unique sets of information, to the hippocampus and then stored as one whole experience. Neurologists believe that the hippocampus, along with the rest of the frontal cortex is responsible for the decision of whether to keep the memories or throw them away. If the frontal cortex decides that the memory is worth keeping then it is sent into multiple different parts of the brain to be stored as a long term memory. If the memory is deemed not worth remembering then the cortex will keep it in the short-term memory. Although variations occur from person to person, short term memory is very brief (as the name suggests) and is only capable of storing memories for an average of 30 seconds. So where do the neurons come into play? Synapses, all 160 trillion of them, are the location of the memory storage. The synapses have to first connect and once connected, they can split apart. Consequently, not triggering certain synapses for long periods of time can make them split, and the memory between those two neurons will be lost (Mohs 1-2).

There are multiple reasons why memory loss occurs. Most of these factors are just having direct damage to the brain either chemically or physically. Alcohol and tobacco use, sleep deprivation, stress, stroke, and malnutrition are all known causes for memory loss. No matter how old one is, everyone suffers from memory loss if not to an extreme level, at least to a certain degree. The older a person gets, the worse their memory is due to their immune system degeneration and more exposure to memory loss factors. Alcohol and tobacco use damages the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and in turn lessens the amount of oxygen entering the brain which will then inhibit brain functions including memory. Sleep deprivation results in fatigue, and fatigue will act as an impediment to brain function. This happens because there are three steps in memory making: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition is gaining something (information, memory, experience, or otherwise) that is worth remembering. Consolidation is storing that memory in the brain. Recalling is the act of remembering a memory later on. Scientists say that acquisition and recall take place during the day, when the brain and body are both active. However, the act of consolidation occurs during the sleeping period when the brain is still active and functioning. The brain will process information and memories that occurred during the day and will consolidate them or store them in the brain. Without a good night’s sleep, memories cannot be consolidated and in turn cannot be recalled a day later. This leads to an important life lesson, don’t cram! All-nighters may seem useful, but in reality, are one of the worst ways to study.

Yet another cause of memory loss is stress. When people are stressed, the mind is both extremely stimulated (because of the many things that the mind knows it has to do) and distracted (fun activities seem even more fun when one has extreme amounts of work to be done). Stress triggers a highly complex chemical process that occurs throughout the body. During stressful situation, a certain chemical, cortisol, is distributed throughout the body by the brain and it provides energy to the limbs to take action and get work done. While it may provide the body with required energy, this process robs the brain of its energy, especially the hippocampus. When this process lasts for a long amount of time the hippocampus gets damaged and the brain function is hindered. With the proper amount of sleep, without stress, the hippocampus repairs itself and is then able to replay the events during the stressful period and new memories are created; however, repeatedly exposing this fragile part of the brain results in irreparable damage which inhibits brain functioning and could, potentially, turn into permanent memory loss (Argyle; Chang).

Malnutrition, most importantly not having the proper amounts of B1 and B12 vitamins greatly impacts brain function and more specifically memory. Vitamin B12 is probably the single most important substance, other than of course oxygen and other essentials, which the brain needs. This vitamin helps to repair and maintain nerve cells and make new DNA (which will make more new nerve cells). Although the body only requires 1.8 – 2.6 micrograms per day, B12 is essential to memory because without it, nerve cells (that have bonds to other nerve cells) will die due to lack of maintenance. Vitamin B12 is analogous to a technician for brain cells; once in a while, every cell needs some maintenance. B12 repairs neurons and restores them to full functionality. Without healthy nerve cells the brain cannot function and therefore cannot store memories. B1, while not as important to the brain, can lead to brain dysfunction. B1 improves the immune system and enhances the body’s ability to cope with stress. This leads to a more efficient hippocampus, which leads to improved memory. A deficiency of B1, which is very rare, causes an inability to digest essential carbohydrates. This digestion inability leads to build up of acidic substance in the bloodstream which decreases mental alertness. This acidic substance decreases mental alertness. Interestingly enough, although B12 is highly important for the body, its deficiency is very common among teenagers and adults, whereas B1, although not as important, is deficient in very few people (Office of Dietary Supplements; Ehrlich).

Although scientists know how memory loss is caused and the main brain regions affected, they still do not know how the brain makes and stores memories. Because it is most likely in the synapses that these memories are kept and stored, it is nigh on impossible to “fix up” a person’s memories after the onset of dementia. The main reason why there is no fool-proof way to cure memory loss is because it happens at such a cellular level, it is impossible to restore the original setting. There are just too many possibilities for the different arrangements of the individual neurons that make up each and every memory. In addition, there are many different causes of memory loss and once it occurs, it is hard to reverse the effects and processes that take place to initiate memory loss in the first place. Memory loss may never be curable. As a human race, nobody will get rid of the words, “I forget”, as far as the eye can see. Unless with some miraculous technological advancements that will empower doctors with the ability to position each and every one of the 160 trillion synapses, there is no feasible way that memory loss can be cured.

The brain helps humans in various different ways and it is imperative to realize that without it humans would be lost in everyday life. From remembering simple tasks to knowing how to execute them, from reading and comprehending text to interpreting speech, from knowing what to do next to remembering the faces of loved ones. The brain plays one of the most critical roles for humans and the success of the human race is testament to the old adage “Brains before Brawn”. Humans may lack the strong physical features that many predators have but compensate with intelligence that is second to none enabling us to be at the top. Homo Sapien success is owed to the brain, without which it would be impossible to perpetrate even the simplest tasks. The social animal may not have talons or fangs, but it does have something much better: an unbelievably fantastic, amazingly efficient, better than others, brain which allows it to do tasks that would seem impossible to any others.

Works Cited

Argyle, Matt “Can Stress Cause Memory Loss?.” Can Stress Cause Memory Loss?. 13 Jan. 2009

Boyd, Robynne. Do People Only Use 10 Percent Of Their Brains?: Scientific American. Scientific American, 2 Feb. 2008. Web.

Chang, Louise, MD. “Memory Loss (Short- and Long-Term).” Pg. 1-2. WebMD. WebMD, 26 Aug. 2011.

Chang, Louise, MD. “WebMD.” Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss (2005): WebMD. WebMD, 18 Mar. 2011.

Ehrlich, Steven D., NMD. Vitamin B1University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland, 26 June 2011.

Essenfeld, Bernice. “Brain.” Gale Encyclopedia of Science. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. 4th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2008. Discovering Collection. Gale. UDLibSEARCH Main Account.

Mohs, Richard C.  “How Human Memory Works” 08 May 2007.  Pg. 1-2.

Office of Dietary Supplements. “Vitamin B12.” QuickFacts. National Institutes of Health, 24 June 2011.

Reber, Paul. What Is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain?: Scientific American. Scientific American, 11 Apr. 2010. Web.

Scishow. “Brain vs. Computer.” 03 May 2012. Online Video Clip. YouTube.


It’s been great guys.




What is Parkinson’s Disease?

August 6, 2014

Before we get started with my “lesson” (blog post), I want to restate that I chose this because my best friend’s dad (who is basically my second dad) was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and I felt a real personal connection with studying it. I love to write and feel that I can present information better in a blog post, which is why I chose what I did.

*I tried to make it as bearable to read as possible*

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s disease is often seen in patients of over sixty-five years old, but can occur at any age. This being said, somewhere between five and ten percent of reported cases of Parkinson’s is “early onset” presenting itself in people under the age of 50. It has affected around half a million people in the United States, with around sixty thousand more being diagnosed each year. It has been found that fifty percent more men have Parkinson’s then women, although the disease has no prejudice against gender. The diagnosing is on the basis of the symptoms and a physical examination, as there are no current laboratory means of detecting Parkinson’s.
There are many defining characteristics of this disease, the most commonly know is the tremors. The symptoms include, but are not limited to: stiffness of limbs, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), difficulties with walking and balance, orthostatic hypotension (lightheadedness that may lead to fainting), sexual dysfunction, and excessive salivation as the patient swallows much less frequently. There are also metal symptoms that include depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations.
As this is a neuroscience course, there has to be a neurological explanation for this right? Yes. Parkinson’s is known to be caused by the degeneration of nerves within the brain. One type of nerve affected by this is one that produce the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine, as we have learned, relays information from one part of the brain to another. Some specific structures that have been mentioned many times as I have researched this disease are the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum. The connection between these two structures is crucial for smooth, concise movement. The lack of dopamine causes impaired motor skills.
Another neurotransmitter that is shown to be affected by the degeneration of nerves is norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter is the major chemical messenger for the brain to the sympathetic nervous system (parts of the nervous system not encased in bone, which is basically everything other than brain and spinal cord.) This system controls many functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. This bit of information explains the fatigue and orthostatic hypotension.
On the more genetic side, there have been genes linked to Parkinson’s. If you care to know what these are, here you go: SNCA, PARK2, PARK7, PINK1, and LRRK2. So we know that Parkinson’s has a fondness for parks and the color pink… not trying to focus on stereotypical gender roles, but isn’t the pink thing strange considering the fact that fifty percent more men have Parkinson’s. WE ARE ON TO YOU MEN. But…. Seriously, make a mental note of SNCA as we will see him (or her) in just a moment.
Many people with Parkinson’s have shown to have Lewy Bodies in their brain. When doing a microscopic examination of the brain, these clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein show up. (Here’s where that SNCA comes in) SNCA is actually another name for the gene responsible for that protein I just mentioned, alpha-synuclein, and was actually THE first gene to be associated with Parkinson’s.
There are therapies and surgeries that people with Parkinson’s may undergo, however these don’t “cure” the patients, merely ease the symptoms. The disease will worsen as time progresses, but the gradual worsening vs dramatic worsening really depends on the individual. There could be someone after twenty(ish) years who are hardly disabled at all; at the same time, there are others who are completely disabled between five and ten years after diagnosis.


Bear, Mark. “The Structure of the Nervous System.” Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain. 172. Print.

Case Notes

August 5, 2014

Part I: 

Electrical activity is necessary in the brain because it is how neurons communicate with each other. Once a threshold is reached inside a specific neuron, a signal is sent down its axon to another neuron and neurotransmitter is released. This event is called a synapse.

During a seizure, the brain experiences increased electrical activity in neurons. Neurons fire in large bursts that the brain can not control, thus sometimes resulting in loss of consciousness and voluntary movement. However, if the seizure only involves a part of the brain, it is possible to remain conscious.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that entails reoccurring seizures. It is usually present in children under the age of 10. Epilepsy is diagnosed by a series of brain scans, such as EEG and MRI. EEG measures normal or abnormal electrical activity in the brain through a cap placed on the subject’s head. An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to show a detailed picture of the brain, further helping with diagnosis. Only after these test have been done can it be confirmed that a person has epilepsy.

Non-epileptic seizures can be caused by many things, such as low blood sugar and diabetes, problems in the heart, panic attacks, brain injuries, and drug use.

Jared is a healthy kid. He is active and does not have diabetes or any additional medical conditions that could be causing his seizures.  Based on the information given, I think that Jerrod is having complex absence seizures. This would explain the twitching of his arm and “staring into space.” Absence seizures don’t last very long, which is also a factor of the seizures Jerrod is having.

To help Jerrod during a seizure, make sure there is nothing around that could hurt him if he loses control of his movements and clear the area. Do not try to hold him down, just make sure he will be safe until the seizure is over. Afterwards, document the events leading up to, during, and after the seizure with detail.

Epilepsy can be treated with medicine, surgery, or, in some cases, vagus nerve stimulation, which is a device that is implanted into the patient to control electrical impulses. The type of treatment often depends on the patient and is chosen to best treat the type of seizures they are having.


Part II:

Rasmussen Syndrome is a progressive neurological disease that almost always affects only one cerebral hemisphere and generally occurs in children under the age of 10. The cause of Rasmussen Syndrome is unknown, but research indicates that it may be similar to that of an autoimmune disease. The disease includes symptoms such as progressive seizures, paralysis of one side of the body, and often loss of speech ability and learning.

MRI is used in diagnosis of rasmussen syndrome to give evidence of tissue loss in one hemisphere of the brain. This shows that the brain is deteriorating in that hemisphere. EEG is used early on in the diagnosis and can identify epileptic patterns in the brain. However, MRI is the most useful technology in catching rasmussen syndrome as it progresses, because it shows actual scans of the damage on the brain.

The left frontal lobe and the left temporal lobe are the main areas of the brain concentrated in the left hemisphere that could be affected. The left frontal lobe deals with language abilities , motor abilities, and other cognitive functions. The left temporal lobe is associated most with language and emotions.

By losing these parts parts of his brain, Jerrod will lose some motor control on the right side of his body (if his left hemisphere is tampered with) and sensation is his hand and fingers on that side of his body will most likely be decreased. He may also have decreased language and memory abilities.

If Jerrod went through with the surgery, he would still have complete control over the right side of his body, in terms of motor control and senses. According to the AANS, he even has a good chance of increasing his IQ after the surgery, due to the new lack of seizures and brain damage.

After a hemisphererectomy, most patients receive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. If not needed, Jerrod will still have to have outpatient therapy. This will help make sure he can regain as much of his motor control and speech as possible and function like a normal child to the best of his ability.

If Jerrod had the surgery, his control over the right side of his body would most likely worsen, but his brain would be much better off. He would be free from the seizures and any more potential brain damage that could occur. He could begin to increase his intelligence.

One question I had about the surgery was the success rate and how many people have been operated on thus far. I found that usually less than 100 hemispherectomies are performed per year and seizures are eliminated in 70-85% of patients.

I would recomend that Jerrod’s family go ahead with the surgery. Though there are still risks and consequences to the surgery, it is still better than definite prolonged brain damage. Without the surgery, Jerrod would only continue to get worse. At least, by having a hemispherectomy, Jared has a great chance to eliminate his seizures from causing any further brain damage and he can live like a normal child for the most part.




Case Notes

August 5, 2014

Part I

1.    There is electrical activity in the brain in the form of action potentials, which the neurons use to communicate with other neurons.
2.    A seizure is experienced when there is altered electrical activity in the brain, usually tending to be an overload. A loss of consciousness occurs if the seizure involves the whole brain, but some consciousness is present if only one brain region experiences seizures.
3.    Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder where the patient experiences recurring seizures. Epilepsy can also bring forth different types of seizures as well as other neurological symptoms. This disorder is diagnosed by understanding family history, ruling out symptoms, as well as through the conduction of different tests such as the EEG, PET Scan, Epilepsy and the Spinal Tap to figure out which types of seizures are being experienced, as each responds to different tests.
4.     An EEG is performed by attaching electrodes to the scalp, which record the electrical activity of the brain. Abnormal patterns of brain waves found in this test will prove that you have epilepsy, while also helping the doctors figure out what type of seizures are being experienced. An MRI, on the other hand, will use very powerful magnets as well as radio waves to obtain a detailed visual of the brain, which will help detect any abnormalities in the brain that might be causing seizures.
5.    Some possible causes of seizures other than epilepsy can be the result of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, or a physical problem in the heart. Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are caused when thoughts and feelings interfere with brain activity, such as panic attacks, dissociative seizures, and factitious seizures.
6.    Jerrod appears to be having atypical absence seizures, as he is unconscious and unresponsive during the seizure, and his head nods slightly back and forth.
7.    If Jerrod is having a seizure where he loses consciousness, the best way to help is to roll the person on their side, which helps prevent choking or vomiting fluids. You should also make sure that the person’s airways stay open; you can do that by tilting their head back. Another important thing to do is to make sure there are no sharp or solid objects in the person’s vicinity that they might injure themselves with during the seizure.
8.    The most common treatment for epilepsy is drug therapy, where drugs are prescribed based on the factors of side effects, frequency and intensity of seizures, age, and medical history.


Part II
1.    Rasmussen Syndrome is similar to an autoimmune process where one hemisphere in the brain starts to inflame and then deteriorate. Damage to the brain is irreversible. This syndrome starts displaying itself in kids between the age of 14 months and 14 years.  One of the first symptoms of this syndrome is seizures, which can then become chronic and progress to hemiplegia, or weakness on one side of the body. Further progression of the disease can lead to behavioral or learning difficulties. There is no known cause for this syndrome, but a theory is that at times, a viral infection can trigger antibodies to respond in the brain, causing the inflammation.
2.    The MRI is used to detect areas of atrophy, or shrinkage of brian matter, in affected side of the brain due to inflammation. The EEG gives us information of the seizures occurring on the affected side of the brain, for example, what type they are, how often they occur, etc. The MRI is more effective in showing the progression of the Rasmussen Syndrome.
3.    In this case, the affected parts of the brain that are going to be removed by the hemispherectomy are going to be the left temporal lobe, part of his left frontal lobe, and possibly parts of the parental and occipital lobe. The corpus collosum will be severed to prevent communication between the two hemispheres of the cerebrum.
4.    Losing these parts of the brain will affect his daily lifestyle. The side of the brain he loses will affect the opposite side of the body greatly. He might encounter problems with his vision, but there is no significant long-term effects on memory or personality. Change in cognitive function is also not drastic, and studies have shown that the brain can adapt fairly well to the surgery and move on to carry out parts of the other hemisphere’s responsibilities.
5.    Jerrod will still retain some motor functions because the thalamus will still be functioning, his memory since the hippocampus will stay intact, and some emotions due to the functionality of the amygdala.
6.    The family should encourage Jerrod and help him through this time by providing the proper support at school to aid possible learning difficulties that could arise after the surgery.
7.    The surgery would be an immediate cure for the Rasmussen Syndrome and control over seizures. However, Jerrod would be left with the incurable weakness of hemiplegia on one side of the body. Jerrod’s age contributes to its neuroplasticity, allowing him to adapt to the surgery over time.
8.    I was wondering about the success rate of hemispherectomies, which was approximately 75%, but lower in kids with Rasmussen Syndrome. As shown by a study called “Clinical Outcomes of Hemispherectomy for Epilepsy in Childhood and Adolescence”, no significant cognitive deterioration was present, such as loss of language. There was also behavioral improvement in 92% of children who had pre-operative behavioral problems.
9.    I would recommend that Jerrod and his family go through with this surgery, because if he didn’t, the situation will only get worse. At least at this point there is still a significant portion of the brain to salvage, and a good chance that the other hemisphere of the brain will adapt to the situation due to the brain’s neuroplasticity. There is no way of telling when there would be a non-surgical cure for Rasmussen Syndrome, and if it is not soon, there is no point in waiting until the syndrome is too advanced to treat.

Case Notes

August 5, 2014

Part 1

Electrical activity in the brain exists because that is the mode of communication amongst neurons (nerve cell). Any movement you make is a result of the relaying of a message by neurons in your brain along a specific pathway or circuit. In order for messages to be passed from neuron to neuron, a certain amount of electricity, or voltage, must be reached inside the cell to relay the message or signal by the release of chemicals (called neurotransmitters) to the next cell in the pathway.

During a seizure, bursts of abnormal electrical signals are received by neurons in a particular part of the brain, which interrupts normal brain function. Because the brain controls all voluntary and involuntary responses, the miscommunication amongst neurons in the brain causes abnormal behavior.

A person is considered to have epilepsy if they have two or more unprovoked seizures, meaning that the seizures aren’t caused by something such as abnormal blood sugar levels, concussion, or drug withdrawal. Epilepsy is diagnosed by EEGs, which measure the electrical activity of the brain, blood testing, a PET scan that locates the part of the brain causing the seizure, and a spinal tap to examine the fluid surrounding the spinal cord, which is a major part of the nervous system.

To perform an EEG (electroencephalography), electrodes are placed on the scalp. The electrodes are connected by wires to an electrical box that is connected to the actual EEG machine. The electrical box detects the electrical signals that are being sent within the brain and the EEG machine records the electrical activity with traces (the squiggles), which correspond to different brain regions. An MRI takes brain structure images, whose level of provided information correspond to the strength of the magnetic field of the machine, by sending pulses of radio waves at your brain ( you don’t feel anything).

Possible causes of seizures other than epilepsy can be provoked or unprovoked. Provoked causes include and are not limited to alcohol and drug use, brain trauma, brain disease, medications, cortical dysplasia. Unprovoked causes include but are not limited to congenital conditions, fever, infection, metabolic or chemical imbalances, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Based on the information in the case, it seems like Jerrod is having absence seizures, which are characterized by short episodes of loss of consciousness , maybe some twitching, and no memory of the occurrence, all of which describe Jerrod’s behavior.

If Jerrod has a seizure, you should immediately protect him from injuring himself by moving nearby furniture, possibly guiding him to the ground so he doesn’t fall, and position his head so that fluid can flow from his mouth. Do not restrain him in any way because that can injure you and/or Jerrod.

Depending on the age, seizure type, and side effects, medication can be prescribed to lower the frequency of seizures. Vagus Nerve stimulation can also be done, which sends energy to the brain via a the vegus nerve, which is large and located in the neck. If the seizures are always caused by a specific part of the brain, surgery can be done to remove it if it does not affect normal functionality of the individual.



Part II

Rasmussen’s syndrome is a neurological disease that should be very carefully diagnosed, as some other disorders have the same effects as this one. It generally affects one hemisphere of the brain and often causes seizures. The syndrome starts to affect the individual between one and fourteen years of age. Weakness and other neurological issues begin to appear one to three years after frequent seizures start to take place. After surgery, which is the usually the most effective treatment, some children recover in 2-3 months.

The EEG showed the brain area that the seizures were caused by, each line representing an area of the brain and the spikes indicating seizure activity. The MRI showed structural abnormalities in the left hemisphere of the brain, which controls the movement of the right side of the body.

If Jared’s left temporal lobe is removed, he will have a lack abilities in memory recall and possibly communication. If parts of the other three brain lobes are taken out, he may have compromised abilities in problem solving, vision, and processing of sensory information. Jerrod’s decisions may not be very well thought out and he might have issues responding appropriately to his environment. Jerrod would retain proper endocrine function, metabolism, the ability to process fear, and the ability to form memories.

During Jerrod’s recovery, it is imperative that his family makes sure he gets plenty of rest, be accommodating of his physical weakness, and keep up with all the occupational and physical therapy appointments along with the neurological assessment appointments.

Jerrod’s level of functioning would most likely get worse regarding motor and cognitive function. However, the seizures would decrease in frequency.

One question I would have is what the complication rate is in the performing of this surgery. I found that it is 0%, but if respective techniques are used only, it can be up to 22%.

I would definitely recommend going ahead with the surgery. It is the best option because the negative effects of the surgery are much less in collateral damage than if the disease continues to progress and cause severe and irreversible brain damage that could be detrimental to the functionality of Jerrod. Also, the procedure is safe and Jerrod would have a much better quality of life if the seizures were less frequent and less severe.


Case Notes

August 5, 2014

1. We have electrical activity in the brain in order to send messages to other parts of the body.  Neurons are used to help transfer that information from the brain to other parts of the body such as the heart or lungs.

2. During a seizure, the neurons get out of control because there is too much electrical activity going on in the brain at one time.  The brain is not sure how to react, so it just goes out of control.

3. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which a patient has reoccurring seizures.  In order to diagnose epilepsy, a series of tests must be performed in order to be one hundred percent sure that epilepsy is the problem at hand.  Some of the primary tests include and EEG, MRI and CT scan of the brain.  This gives a closer look into the brain and what might be causing it to lose control.

4. The two main procedures for diagnosing epilepsy are and MRI and and EEG.  An EEG measures electrical activity of the brain.  There are specific patterns for abnormalities in the brain such as head trauma or seizures.  The doctor will compare the electrical waves measured from the patient and then compare it to other specific patterns.  An EEG is a painless and noninvasive procedure.  Electrodes are placed on the scalp and attached to an electrical box which will measure the brain activity after being transmitted to a computer.  An MRI is also another noninvasive procedure used for diagnosing epilepsy.  It produces a very high resolution photo of the brain and shows even more detail than a CT scan would.

5. Non epileptic seizures are caused by a few things including metabolic and physical reasons or psychogenic reasons.

6.  Based on the information already given, it seems that Jerrod could be having epileptic seizures.

7. While Jerrod is having a seizure, there are a few things to do in order to make sure everyone, especially Jerrod, is safe.  Make sure there is no furniture in the way or anything else he could possibly hurt himself on.  In addition it is important, if it is possible, to help him gently on to the floor so he does not fall, and most importantly do not try to hold Jerrod down during a seizure, as this could cause much more damage.

8. There are many safe and effective treatments for epilepsy including medication, VNS therapy, and various types of neurosurgery.


1. Rasmussen Syndrome is a neurological condition starting in children anywhere from 14 months to 14 years old.  Rasmussen is associated most often with seizures, most often partial seizures.  While this disease is rarely fatal, the effects can be very devastating.  Weakness on one side of the body, mental handicap and other symptoms most likely occur in a patient with Rasmussen Syndrome.  Anti epileptic drugs as a treatment most often does not work in patients with Rasmussen.  A brain procedure called a functional hemispherectomy can sometimes be successful.

2. Doctors can use either an MRI or EEG to diagnose Rasmussen Syndrome by viewing brain images and attempting to find brain abnormalities associated with Rasmussen’s.

3.  The left hemisphere of the brain is mainly responsible for language and communication.

4. Jerrod may have issues completing various actions, but he may as well lose short term memory ability and have difficulty with emotions after having the surgery.

5. Jerrod would retain much of his brain and functions.  He would have some muscle memory, coordination and his senses would mostly be left in tact.

6. If Jerrod was to have the surgery, his level of functioning would most definitely increase over time.

7. Are there any alternatives before going ahead with surgery?  Jerrod could try taking medication, but the surgery does have the highest percentage of working in his case.

8. I would recommend that Jerrod go ahead with the surgery.  His level of functioning would increase over time and he would have a decreased amount of seizures.  If this is left untreated, more devastating and fatal effects from Jerrod’s condition could end up occurring. If Jerrod and his family are still unsure about the surgery, they could get a second opinion and rethink the decision.