The Nutty Professor and Brains, Brains, Brains
By Jana Gilbert
“Hello, class!” Professor Dobbins spoke enthusiastically as the last student entered the room. Today, he was going to talk about his favorite part of the human anatomy: the brain. “Today is going to be exciting!”
All of the students groaned. They knew that when he said something would be “exciting,” it was always boring. Always.
“How many of you know what the Ancient Egyptians believed about a person’s behavior? Who controlled it?” Only three students raised their hands. Everyone else was too lazy. “Yes, Johnny?”
“Um, a little person that lived inside the skull?” He said hesitantly.
“Precisely!” Professor Dobbins stepped out from behind his desk. “That was just a little fun fact to get us going. Today’s topic is the brain!” One of the pupils started banging his head on a desk. “Oh, come off it! It won’t be that bad!” The professor placed some papers on a dark, wooden podium and began to speak.
“The brain is separated into the left and right hemisphere, which are connected by the corpus callosum. It also has three sections: the hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain. The hindbrain is the lower part of the brain and is involved in lots of important processes. Some of those are the heart rate, respiration, and balance. The midbrain controls vision and hearing. The forebrain, which is the front, is involved in complicated functions like thought and emotion.
The hindbrain contains the medulla, the pons, and the cerebellum. The medulla controls the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. The pons, which is in front of the medulla, is in charge of body movement, attention, alertness, and sleep. The cerebellum appears to be a small version of our cerebrum, under which it is located. However, it is involved in balance and coordination. If someone’s cerebellum is damaged, it could cause them to fall and seriously injure themself.”
“So,” Johnny asked, “if I was to trip somebody down the stairs and they got a concussion…?”
Professor Dobbins placed his head in his hands and sighed. “Yes, that’s the general idea. I do not suggest that, however, because if the person died, that would be considered manslaughter. You would end up in jail.” Silence filled the room at his words. He continued to talk.
“Let’s move on to the midbrain! The midbrain can be found between the hindbrain and forebrain. It concerns itself with hearing and vision. It also contains the reticular activating system. The reticular activating system starts in the hindbrain and escalates through the midbrain into the lower part of the forebrain. It is very important for sleep, attention, and arousal.” Professor Dobbins suddenly noticed that one of his students was sleeping. He figured this was a good opportunity for a demonstration of his point, so he took a small pair of symbols and clanged them together. The student practically jumped out of his seat. “Good, you’re awake!”
“Why would you do that?” James questioned, still half-asleep.
“This is a class, not your home,” Professor Dobbins stated, “so pay attention. Next time, it won’t be symbols that I use, and I definitely will not be as far away.” James immediately sat up straight in his chair and directed his eyes to the front of the room.
“Do not do it again, alright?” James nodded. “Anyway, the heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity are affected by the reticular activating system. It makes us alert. Like I just proved for you all, loud noises can cause the reticular activating system to operate and can thus cause a sleeping person to awaken. On the other hand, this activating system can also block out noises. For example, if someone lives in the city, they become used to cars hurtling by or horns blaring in the night. If a bird was to start singing, though, the person might arise immediately because they are not used to hearing such a sound.” Half of the...
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