Why does my brain stop working sometimes

Brain disorders

The nervous system is divided into a central and a peripheral area. The nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. Nerve cells in other parts of the body are part of the peripheral nervous system. Both are closely related: when someone strokes our cheek, reactions occur in the sensory cells of the skin, which are translated into an electrical signal and transmitted via the peripheral nervous system to the spinal cord and brain. Conversely, electrical signals from the brain reach the muscles via the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system and set complex processes in motion there: the muscles contract - we smile.

The human brain has a special position within the nervous system: It consists of around 86 billion nerve cells, which are linked to one another with hundreds of billions of connections. This immense wiring produces something new that goes beyond the mere transmission of information. Through processes that have only been partially understood, electrical and biochemical signals give rise to phenomena that we call consciousness and psyche.

Nerve cells are those cells that "wire" the organism of almost all living things. From a biological point of view, nerve cells primarily serve to transmit information. This happens through electrical and biochemical signals. The signal molecules involved in the transmission are called “transmitters” by experts. The totality of all nerve cells in the body is called the nervous system.

Clinical pictures with very different symptoms

Brain disorders can lead to two different types of symptoms. On the one hand, narrowly defined brain functions can be impaired, for example memory or muscle control. On the other hand, there can be problems with the higher-level functions, with mood or consciousness. Medicine distinguishes between neurological symptoms and psychiatric symptoms. In practice, however, a sharp separation is often not possible here.

In their entirety, diseases of the brain are among the great challenges for medicine and society. In the global disease burden and premature death statistics, five of the ten most important diseases come from this area (WHO). The clinical pictures and their causes are different. In Alzheimer's dementia and Parkinson's disease, nerve cells that are important for memory and control of the muscles perish. In depression and schizophrenia, on the other hand, communication between nerve cells is impaired. This can lead to mood swings or delusions. In multiple sclerosis, on the other hand, the transmission of electrical signals through the nerve cells is impaired because the insulating layer surrounding the nerve cell extensions, the so-called myelin, is destroyed.

Experienced neurologists can often deduce the underlying disease very precisely from the pattern of symptoms.

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases e. V. (DZNE) researches the causes of disorders of the nervous system and develops strategies for prevention, therapy and care. It cooperates closely with universities, their clinics and non-university institutions. The DZNE is one of six centers for health research (DZG) set up by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to combat the most important common diseases.

Why the brain gets sick

There are a few diseases of the brain that can be traced back directly to a genetic makeup. In Huntington's disease, for example, certain nerve cells in the cerebrum perish as a result of a genetic defect. This creates the typical muscle twitching that was previously called "St. Vitus' s dance".

On the other hand, there are some diseases that are directly related to external factors, such as infections of the brain. They can be caused by viruses as well as bacteria (and in very rare cases also fungi). Detecting brain infections early is important because then they are often easily treatable.

Most brain diseases, however, cannot so clearly be traced back to genes on the one hand or external factors on the other. Usually there is a certain genetic predisposition, but this does not always lead to a disruption of the brain functions. The increasing aging of the population, for example, goes hand in hand with an increasing frequency of dementias. But not everyone who is predisposed to dementia in old age will also become demented. It is similar with depression and schizophrenia. Here, science knows the genetic factors that make people susceptible to these diseases. But that does not mean that the respective person actually develops depression or schizophrenia.

Mental Illness Research Network

The research network for mental illnesses brings together over 30 scientific institutions from all over Germany. They research new and proven ways of prevention, diagnosis and therapy and optimize them. It is about diseases such as depressive and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions as well as attention and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.