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What Is A Brain?

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Your brain is the center of your nervous system. It takes in sensory information about your surrounding environment, processes this information, and changes your behavior. Your brain allows you to respond in an appropriate way to the world around you. Brains are made up of specialized and microscopic cells called neurons. Neurons cluster together in groups of millions to form structures large enough to see without a microscope. It is thought that each of these larger structures receives a different type of information and that these structures are responsible for independent tasks. Therefore, damage in a certain area of the brain might cause a specific behavioral defect. For example, damage to the part of the brain called Broca’s area results in an inability to understand spoken words.1,2 In addition, there is a growing appreciation that the connections between the different areas may be just as important as studying the individual areas. One of the most readily visible features of autism is behavioral changes (for example, withdrawal from contact with people, repetitive behavior, and fear of change). This strongly suggests that studying the brain might be useful for understanding this disorder.

  1. Broca P. Remarques sur le siège de la faculté du langage articulé, suivies d’une observation d’aphémie (perte de la parole). Bulletins de la Société d’anatomie (Paris), 2e serie 1861c;6:330-57.
  2. Dronkers NF, Ogar J. Aphasia. In: Aminoff MJ, Daroff RB, editors. Encyclopedia of the neurological sciences. San Diego, CA: Academic Press; 2003.