Years ago, I approached Alan Leshner, in a bar no less, as he was crisscrossing America as Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). He was explaining the damaging effects alcohol and drug consumption had on the brain. Now, for the first time, I’m opening up my brain to the general public so you can inspect for yourself what Alan Leshner and other researchers have been talking about.
Please do not touch any of the displays along the way. Much of what you see may appear antiquated and unorganized but this brain is still a unique, functioning organism. Note the dopamine drop-off containers along the way. If you have an extra supply, please contribute to my ongoing search for positive stimulation.
As you can immediately see, my brain is divided into two halves. The right half deals with how I see things, the left analyzes it and puts it into words. Lots of information comes whizzing up and down my spinal cord from all over my body and that mixes with the data coming in from my eyes, ears and nose. Now here’s the confusing part: the half of my brain you see over here to the left controls the right side of my body and the left half of my brain controls my right side. Go figure.
Somewhere in this quagmire is a bunch of dead brain cells from many years of imbibing. I can’t find them so watch your step. Back in the day, experts said adults didn’t grow any new brain cells, but if you view my Neurogenesis Construction Zone, you’ll see new cells are popping out like crazy.
See the lights zigzagging overhead like something out of a Star Wars movie? Those are my nerve cells shooting out neurotransmitters. It’s how all my data gets passed around. If we had more time I’d show you the pharma-sponsored reuptake inhibitor display, but we must move on.
If you look straight ahead, you will be blown away by my exquisite frontal lobe. This is where I do my thinking, planning and problem solving. Somewhere in there is my hippocampus, which controls my memory, though I’m embarrassed to say I’ve forgotten where it’s located. It also seems to be feeding me a lot of childhood memories recently, rather than reminding me of where I left my car keys.
I hear some of your children laughing at all the folds and wrinkles in my gray matter. Please inform them that it is a purposeful design structure to maximize my neuron surface area. I don’t like all that whispering and giggling. In fact, it’s quite upsetting. Now you’ve done it, my emotions have set off the alarms in my limbic system. Everyone must exit immediately.
I have a great appreciation for neuroscience and the promise it holds. At the same time, I recognize that the brain is a fabulous organ, even the brains of those who have used alcohol and drugs. For both professionals and patients, we should be cautious of applying medications that are designed to “fix” a complex system we have just begun to understand.