The Assault on Our Brains

Dolors & Sense

by Sanford Rose

KISSIMMEE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—2/20/12—Someone recently suggested that we probably get more mail in a day, mostly via the Internet, than our grandparents (my parents) got in a lifetime.

We are overstimulated, oversensationalized, overwrought.

This dysfunctionality is compounded by a chemically adulterated food supply grown in increasingly impoverished soils and supplemented by dangerous food additives.

We have more food than we ever had and, at the same time, often fewer essential nutrients (and especially micronutrients)—a combination that infallibly contributes to destructive overeating.

Excess sensation and poor diet conspire to destroy our minds.

Under assault: the human brain (by the human brain).
Under assault: the human brain (by the human brain).

They lead to obesity.

Obesity leads to diabetes. (About 20 percent of the US population is diabetic; another 25 percent pre-diabetic.)

Diabetes leads to depression. (Diabetics are almost five times more likely to become clinically depressed than non-diabetics.)

Depression destroys our brains.

Depressives end up with smaller hippocampi, smaller amygdalae and smaller anterior cingulates than most non-depressives.

They are twice as likely as non-depressives to proceed to full-blown dementia.

At the cellular level, the atrophic process runs along these lines:

Stress, mental and physical, works havoc with what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The hypothalamus, located in the mid-brain, is the master organ of neuronal deterioration.

When improperly regulated, it sends a chemical message to the pituitary gland, which sends another chemical message to the adrenal glands, which send a third message causing the neurons to be infused with more cortisol and more glutamate, the body’s principal excitatory neurotransmitter, than are good for them.

The excess cortisol interferes with glucose transport to the neuronal cell.

The excess glutamate damages the walls of a key sub-cell or cell organelle called the mitochondrion.

This two-pincer assault culminates in apoptosis—cell death.

The cell has defenses—trophic or growth factors, such as BDNF, mentioned in the posting of January 30.

But the assault remains relentless, and many people simply lack the knowledge of how best to mobilize those forces capable of forestalling nerve-cell atrophy.

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Sanford Rose, of New Jersey and Florida, served as Associate Editor of Fortune Magazine from 1968 till 1972; Vice President of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1972; Senior Editor of Fortune between 1972 and 1979; and Associate Editor, Financial Editor and Senior Columnist of American Banker newspaper between 1979 and 1991. From 1991 till 2001, Rose worked as a consultant in the banking industry and a professional ghost writer in the field of finance. He has also taught as an adjunct professor of banking at Columbia University and an adjunct instructor of economics at New York University. He states that he left gainful employment in 2001 to concentrate on gain-less investing. (A lifelong photo-phobe, Rose also claims that the head shot accompanying his Weekly Hubris columns is not his own, but belongs, instead, to a skilled woodworker residing in South Carolina.)