Editorial for Localization of Nicotine-Sensitive Cells in the Brainstem

Author:  Alexander Patananan

Institution:  UCLA
Date:  February 2008

The brain, coming from the Greek βρεχμός, for forehead, is one of the most interesting and complex components of the body. In humans, the brain contains approximately 23 billion neurons, with some connected to another 10,000 neurons. The brain also possesses an astounding variety of roles, from the management of behavior, to the control and execution of movement. However, many aspects of the brain are shrouded in mystery. One particularly interesting case involves a student from the University of Sheffield. Initially examined by Dr. John Lorber because of a slightly larger than normal head, it was determined that instead of having the typical 4 to 5 cm brain tissue thickness from the ventricles to the cortical surface, this individual had such a severe case of hydrocephalus that this region was shrunk down to only a millimeter. Despite having absolutely "no brain," the student had an IQ of 126 and graduated from his university with honors standing. According to Dr. Patrick Wall from University College of London, numerous people today have this condition, with no detectable brain present. This case produced many questions including, "are there only few specific sections of the brain, instead of the full organ, that are vital for human life and performance?" Today, much research has gone into this phenomenon, in addition to exploring what environmental factors determine how our brains control our bodies.

In their research article, "Localization of Nicotine-Sensitive Cells in the Brainstem," Akash M. Shah and advisor Dr. Roger A. Buchanan from Arkansas State University and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute explore how the brain responds to nicotine. Using histochemical methods, the researchers explored pedunculopontine nucleus neurons that express nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, in addition to the nicotinic pathway in the reticular formation. Such work is vital in gaining further knowledge of how the brain is affected by nicotine and cigarette smoke. To learn more about this fascinating topic, please consult their research article in the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Young Investigators.

Written by: Alexander Patananan

Published by: Konrad Sawicki