Your brain is a very important part of you. It allows you to think, breathe, move, feel, and speak. It is only 3 pounds of gray and white matter resting on your skull, but it serves as your “mission control.” You perceive information from your surroundings through the brain because it can receive, process, and integrate information both outside the body and inside so you can live and function despite the changing circumstances. It also allows you to learn and decide for yourself. Drugs including opiates alter the way your brain works.
The brain constitutes many parts working together as a team. Every part of the brain has its own job to do and all of these are important.
- When drugs come into the brain, they can interfere with the normal processing, eventually changing how it functions.
- Due to prolonged use, users can become addicted to the drug.
- Addiction is seen as a brain disease characterized by its ability to control the user to not stop the use of drugs even if they want to, despite knowing the terrible consequences of drugs on their health.
Drugs can change the three primary areas of the brain which are:
The Brain Stem
This part of the brain takes charge of all functions in the body needed for survival such as breathing, blood circulation, and digestion. It links the brain to the spinal cord, which moves muscles and limbs. Generally, it lets the brain know what’s going on in the body.
The Limbic System
This functions by linking together brain structures that control emotional responses like pleasure. People are usually motivated to repeat behavior resulting in pleasurable feelings.
The cerebral cortex
This mushroom-shaped part of the outer brain or the gray matter makes up ¾ of the brain. It is divided into four different areas called lobes. The region controls specific functions like processing information from our five senses allowing us to feel, hear, see, and taste. The frontal cortex is our thinking center that enables us to think, solve problems, plan, and make decisions.
In 2015, the NDRI received funding from NIMH to develop a program that will identify and recover brain specimen from donors diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, and other pervasive developmental disorders. Specimens donated to the program continue to help researchers understand associated behaviors such as developmental delays, excessive repetitive behaviors, and deficits in communication. All these are also common to those diagnosed with brain disorders.
The NDRI was also able to launch a brain acquisition program together with CNRM or the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed services University back in 2015. The funding from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation supported the research of the neurological symptoms of TBI or traumatic brain injury related to combat and blast exposures in the U.S. military service. NDRI worked with Tissue Bank and OPO in 2016 to recover the whole brain specimen to be used in this program.