How Do Nerves Work

What is Pain Neurons 2014 v4.001

Nerves are little agents with their own agendas

The source for this statement is the wonderful Daniel Dennett. He uses the idea of neurons as being much more complicated than a simple switch in an interview for website. He develops the idea to see a healthy mind as a successful collaboration between competing ‘cabals’ and alliances of groups of neurons. However there is a huge potential for anarchy.

He does not talk about pain, but the model that groups of neurons that signal danger could go out of control in pain, fits well with his discussion of how the brain works

Neuroplasticity describes how brains change their physical wiring all the time

Plasticity is a change in the connectivity in your brain. The more neurons recruited to map out a task, the quicker and more effective we are at integrating  sensory information and acting effectively. Brain functioning involves a progressive coordination of groups of neurons working together via more chemicals, more membrane receptors, more synapses and more insulation.

‘As that coordination grows to a level reflecting performance reliability, chemicals are released that induce a physical thickening of the insulation on the brain wires (axons) coming from this now- more- coordinated machinery. Wires with better insulation ship out more- coordinated information at higher speed.’ ‘Using the levels of axon insulation thickness as a guide, we see that the brain of a late teenage female appears to have reached its final state of “maturation.”’ ‘The guys are behind the females pretty much all the way through their childhood, and are generally between 18 and 20 before the brain wires are insulated most thickly in the brain’s areas of highest learning.’

Merzenich 2013 p55

Danger signals

Danger signals occur when there is

  • Tissue damage
  • Inflammation
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Nerve damage – this is makes pain even more complex (neuropathic pain)

Here are some slides on the the sources of danger signals  pain danger signals v1

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