We’re born with the neurons we die with. Unlike other cells in our body, neurons unfortunately cannot multiply. Once a neuron dies off, it’s gone for good. Or, is it? New research over the last decade has shown that although we cannot “regrow” or multiply new neurons, we actually may have a way to repair them. There are multiple reasons that we may need to have the ability to do this, one of the main reasons being a person sustaining a traumatic brain injury, but also having Parkinson’s Disease. Additional research has shown that if we don’t get enough sleep at night, specifically sustaining enough REM (rapid eye movement) cycles, we are more likely to develop Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

For my project I have decided to do a timeline of our brain. It starts from birth and goes to death and I used the average human lifespan of 80 years, so birth being 0 and end of life being 80. This relates to Unit 6 of our course, specifically nervous tissues and cells. In one of our previous units, I learned that we don’t continuously regenerate neurons and I found that extremely fascinating, but knowing what I know now, it makes a lot of sense for why we don’t. While doing research for neuronal development, I learned that a buildup of proteins can lead to Alzheimer’s and when I looked into it further, it sounded like everything was somehow connected. In my timeline, it starts off with a young brain with lots of neurons and slowly the neurons die off and accumulate proteins. The strings are the neural networks, the blue trapezoid pieces are neurons, and the yellow that is added towards the end of the timeline is the protein buildup.

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  1. Unlike other cells in our body’s, neurons do not have the ability to reproduce or multiply. However, new research shows that we may be able to repair damaged neurons instead of regrow new ones. Studies show that people who do not get enough REM sleep are proven to be more susceptible to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. During our sleep, we go through different cycles switching between deep sleep and a lighter sleep. One of the cycles is REM and it lasts for about 90 minutes and the sleep cycles switch between REM and non-REM sleep (Carskadon & Dement, 2011). REM sleep allows our brain to “clean out” or flush our proteins and prevent beta-amyloid proteins to build up. Beta-amyloid proteins when allowed to build up in the brain are directly related to the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. So without an adequate amount of sleep, overtime our protein build up makes us more susceptible to developing such diseases. As we age and our neurons begin to deteriorate, our memories begin to fade and won’t be able to be recovered. Along with losing neurons and memories, we all hate being tired, it is important to get enough sleep to allow the body to recover and allow the brain time to flush out proteins to prevent build up of harmful proteins.

    Carskadon, M.A., & Dement, W.C. (2011). Monitoring and staging human sleep. In M.H. Kryger, T. Roth, & W.C. Dement (Eds.), Principles and practice of sleep medicine, 5th edition, (pp 16-26). St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.

    Ashley Hailey

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