This Changes Everything: Cutting Edge Brain Info

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Dr. Charles Parker Does it Again!

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the Brain Based Resources Series

I promise that I’m not in Charlie Parker’s employ — we’re simply kindred spirits on the Learning to drive the very brain you were born with™ pathway, so I reference him A LOT!

So what did Parker do? He scooped me, as they say in the journalistic trade – publishing a story before this reporter could make it happen.

Usually out in front with the latest, his recent article — ADHD Insights: Glia Matters (subtitled, ADHD Evolution: Understanding the Other, Glial Brain) — includes an eighteen and a half minute video of a TED talk by PhD, Douglas Fields. Fields is the author of The Other Brain,  a book about a type of brain cell you probably haven’t heard a lot about up to now. But you WILL!

Cutting edge and right on the money where Brain-based Coaching is concerned, recent discoveries about glial cells point the way to a new frontier in cognitive neuroscience. Let’s see if I can catch you up a bit.

Neurons and Neuroglia

Science has believed for some time that the central nervous system consists of two main types of brain cells: neurons and glial cells [neuroglia]. Neuron-rich portions of the brain look greyish to our eyes because of capillary blood vessels and neuronal cell bodies — thus the brain’s nickname you have undoubtedly heard many times: “grey matter.

Since the heaviest neuron concentration is located in the cortex (that extremely shallow, wrinkly outer covering that was the last to develop in the human brain), many people expect to hear that brain cells are generally grey in color.  Nope!

Neurons – the building blocks of our “grey” matter – make up only about 15% of the cells that contribute to the structure of our brains.  As we move deeper into the brain, rich in neuroglia, white matter dominates (which actually, until it is preserved in formaldehyde, looks a pinkish white to our eyes.)

Athough glial cells dramatically outnumber neurons, it has long been thought that the two most referenced types of neurogia were primarily “support” structures. Their primary function, so we thought, was to protect the rest of the brain cells by adding structure (oligodendrocytes) and taking away waste products (astrocytes, or astroglia). Processing and cognition has long been associated with grey matter alone.

Recent research indicates that the brain cells making up our brains white matter (including their microglia buddies) have a whole lot more to do with a number of functions than was previously suspected.

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