Posted later 2/17/19
For this week’s segment on the brain, I would like to briefly discuss a possible cause of dementia. I am not a neuroscience whiz, nor even a particularly brainy guy, but I love to read literature about the brain and how Alzheimer’s harms it, so I can try to understand the complexities of the condition. (Using my wee brain to try to understand the brain itself= quintessential irony) I suppose my studying mainly helps me empathize with patients and with scientists who dedicate their lives trying to solve this deadly mystery.
This week I was listening to an amazing Audible book called When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery by Frank T. Vertosick Jr.. The good doctor referred to a case in which a patient hurt parts of the brain called arachnoid mater and subarachnoid spaces. Technically this isn’t a “part” of the brain as much as it is a part of the space between the brain and the skull. It is filled with cerebrospinal fluid and acts as a cushion layer for the brain. The usefulness of this space is both interesting and over my head from a science standpoint, pardon the pun. This region is one space in the brain that includes some tools that help manage, remove or fix amyloid plaques and tau tangles (commonly believed as markers/causes of Alzheimer’s disease) that try to form in the healthy brain. The brain tries to heal itself and it is so unsuccessful in the Alzheimer’s brain that it actually harms the cells in the organ.
What my simple mind found interesting: Arachnoid and subarachnoid include same root as spiders since they are somewhat web-like in appearance. To my simple mind, it adds a bonus “meaning” the old adage “Blow the cobwebs out” which means to do something that clears your mind and makes you sharper and more mentally alert. Some research has been performed in trying to improve the circulation and efficiency of this part of the central nervous system. Making the brain’s clearance system work better at clearing out waste/harmful substances may lead to treatments in the future. Maybe playing brain games, exercising more, drinking more water and eating a brain-healthy diet will create this “cobweb-blowing” result and help make us more resistant to the disease? Hmmm.
There is so much to read and so little time. Until a cure or treatment is found, all we can do is pray, study, empathize with the medical community and love on our relatives that are stuck in this terrible disease.