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The Brain: Quick Thinking Communication Cord And Transient Global Amnesia ( losing your memory)

Updated on October 22, 2016
The brain and communication
The brain and communication | Source

The Brain and Communication

The brain is a fascinating organ. Without it we wouldn't survive or live a normal life. We can see, hear, walk, talk and do millions of other things because our brain is the engine that makes us work. But how does the communication between the brain and body work?

The link between the brain and body is the spinal cord, a band of Nervous Tissue as thick as a little finger that runs through our hollow backbone for approx 18 ins (45cm).

Nerve cells called Motor Neurones convey electrical impulses that travel from the brain to the spinal cord, then leaving at the appropriate level and passing to the various parts of the body.

Similarly, sensory neurones transmit messages from organs and tissues via the spinal cord back to the brain. In other words, our brains are an amazing mixture of electrical impulse and perfect synchronisation.


The spinal cord can also function without the intervention of the brain. It alone controls those actions which are called spinal reflexes, that need to be taken very quickly in response to danger.

Quicker Than Thought.

Take for example when we touch a hot plate or cooker ring. The danger signal from the sensory neurones conveys the danger to the spinal cord, which quickly sends a message back, via a motor neurone. This tells the muscles to drop the plate immediately.

The amazing thing is how quickly this process works. We may even drop the plate before the brain has had time to receive the original message reporting the plates heat.

Did You Know?

Dogs have a finely honed scratch reflex that helps them get rid of unwanted bugs!

If you tickle a dog just behind its shoulders, it will immediately distribute its weight on three legs and start scratching until you stop tickling it.

Scientists have found that all breeds of dog do this. From the tiny Mexican hairless dog to the great dane! Evidently they scratch at exactly the same rate, around five scratches a second.

Well who would have thought it!

The Brain And Spinal Cord Working Together

It is this type of protective function that a doctor tests for when he taps the patient on the knee and watches his lower leg shoot up. Its not practised so much these days, but I am sure you can all remember your doctor doing this at some stage.

This reflex is the spinal cords way of ensuring that none of the tendons in our bodies become overstretched. By striking the knee the doctor stretches the patellar tendon.

The leg muscles then contract to take the strain off the tendon again.

The spinal cord also helps to manage routine reactions that may be considered too insignificant for the conscious brain to deal with. For example things such as going to the toilet, blinking our eyes and so on. And of course the muscles that hold our skeletons together.

Most of us don't even think about this process that happens 24 hours a day. Thanks to the help from the spinal cord taking on these instructions, the brain is left free to occupy itself with more complicated tasks.

Transient Global Amnesia

When A Surgeons Mind 'Erased' Instead of 'Recorded'!

In 1986 a surgeon in Chicago with over 20 years experience, was stitching up a patient. All of a sudden he stopped and with a look of detachment on his face asked, 'Did I take the gall bladder out?'

The nurse calmly told that yes he had. But after every stitch he once again repeated the question!

The nurse saw that something was wrong and helped him finish the Op.

Afterwards, the surgeon was checked out by another doctor, and found to his disbelief that he had suffered something called 'Transient Global Amnesia'. Even though its pretty rare it does happen to people across the globe.

Luckily it only lasts a few hours, then goes away and in most cases never comes back again.

In the case of the surgeon, in every other respect the functions of his brain were perfectly normal. Although he was confused by what was happening to him he showed no fear.

He was kept under observation for a day and given a brain scan. By now his memory had recovered completely. Apart from a gap of 48 hours.

Brain scan of Transient Global Amnesia
Brain scan of Transient Global Amnesia | Source

So What Is Transient Global Amnesia?

Basically its caused by a malfunction in the reticular activating system, a network of cells that are involved in registering and retrieving memory.

This can be caused by a number of factors including physical or emotional stress, immersion in cold water, and sudden exposure to heat or cold.

However, less than ten percent of victims of a first attack will suffer further attacks, and the symptoms always disappear after a short time.


There is no current hypothesis of why these events occur. General ideas are that it is some form of epilepsy, bad blood circulation, or migraine side effect.

Other possibilities however could be caused by jugular vein valve insufficiency. In other words when a person has been doing vigorous exercise this can make them perform something called Valsalva Maneuver. This is the bearing down on the glottis (vocal cords). Such as weightlifting and heavy muscular lifting.

By pushing down on the glottis it slows down blood flow to the brain, hence causing Transient Global Amnesia. Another possibility is the use of Statins, medication to help stop cholesterol. Most cases occur between the ages of 56 and 72 years old. Average age 62. (Wikipedia)


The human brain, along with the spinal cord are nature's ingenious way of keeping us safe, mobile and healthy. To be able to sense heat on our skin so quickly, to run without really having time to think about it when we notice danger and to feel pain the second it happens.

You can see why our brain is the most important organ in the body. And remember, if you ever get a head injury, however small, always get it checked out. Because there could be hidden dangers within the skull such as bruising or bleeding.

We need to keep the brain as safe as possible, if we want to retain our memories and our sensory system.

(c) copyright nell rose


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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Thanks Linda, I always do quiz's etc, mind you I am not that good at them though! lol!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      The brain is a terrible thing to waste or loss. Just like we exercise our bodies, mind exercises are just as crucial and hope for the best. Excellent article and reminders!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi phdast7 thanks so much, lol! yes I know what you mean, it is scary stuff! glad you liked it, and thanks

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Nell - I am fascinated by all kinds of medical conditions and scientific anomalies, so this was right up my alley. Very, very interesting and well written hub. I learned a lot. Of course, being 59, and "in the Window" I will be wondering if and when my Transient Global Anemia attack will occur. lol Not really, too many other actual things to worry about. :) Sharing.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      HI Faith, thanks so much for reading, yes it's a fascinating thing isn't it? glad you liked it, nell

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      How fascinating Nell! The brain is the most advanced "computer" so-to-speak that we will ever have!!! Nothing can compare and no one person will ever be able to duplicate it!

      Voted up ++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Vinaya, great to see you, and thanks for reading, nell

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Undoubtedly, brain is the most amazing thing in the entire human body. Since ancient times, many great men and women have taken a great interest on how brain functions . However, brain is still a strange thing.

      Thanks for sharing this useful and interesting hub.


    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      I never thought of that drbj, you could well be right there. Thanks so much for reading, and I am glad you liked it, nell

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Transient Global Amnesia may be happening to folks more than we know, Nell. I often wonder when reading about an unexplained airplane disaster if that is what the pilot may have suffered. Another excellent reason for having a co-pilot . . . in good health, that is.

      Thanks for sharing this excellent research, m'dear.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Deb, glad you liked it, yes our brains are an amazing machine, so complicated, thanks for reading, nell

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great work, Nell. Our bodies are remarkable, and the organs function so well in synchronization. Most of the time, anyway!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Dream On, glad you liked it, nell

      Hi christopher, same here, I lose my memory badly enough now! lol! thanks as always, nell

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Fascinating article Nell. I never heard of Transient Global Amnesia before. I hope I never get it.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 4 years ago

      Wow learning more about the brain we are so blessed.Transient Global Amnesia so scary.Thanx for sharing your gift.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi ChitrangadaSharan, thanks so much for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Jools, lol! yes I forget too! that surgeon was lucky he had someone to help him, scary stuff! thanks again for reading, nell

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is such a well researched and well written hub, on a very important topic. I got enlightened truly, about Transient Global Amnesia.

      Many thanks for sharing!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Very interesting Nell; so much we take for grated about nerve cells, the spine and the brain all working together (and sometimes not!). Shred etc, great pictures too :o) Transient global amnesia sounds quite scary - I forget why I went upstairs sometimes but a surgeon being in the situation is a bit scary , good job the nurse was switched on and realised something was amiss.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks ruby, I came around to doing this in a funny way, I first saw an article about brain connections and the spine etc, but not a lot of info, then looking into it I found this amazing anomaly, so hence the hub! lol! thanks as always, nell

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is very interesting Nell. I would hate to be having surgery when the Doctor experienced a transient global amnesia, wow! Your research on this kind of topic is really good. I learn much from your health hubs..Thank you for sharing....