The brain – the control centre for our vital functions
Speaking and breathing, feeling and walking, thinking and remembering – these and all the other functions that are needed every day in order for us to live are dependent on a highly complex system: the central nervous system.
In this system, the brain has the function of a superordinate switching point. It regulates the functions of all our vital organs, controls our actions and is the centre for our perception, concentration and memory. The work is performed by around 100 billion brain cells (neurons) which are in constant contact with each other and require a large amount of energy. They also contribute significantly to our mental performance.
The smallest unit of our thinking process
A network of brain cells is responsible for our thoughts and actions every day – our mental performance. We frequently talk about our “little grey cells”. But what are they? What do these cells look like and how are they connected?
Each nerve cell (neuron) consists of a cell body with various extensions (dendrites) and works like a fast “relay runner”. Information is absorbed by neighbouring cells via these dendrites, then it is “calculated”, translated into electrical signals and forwarded via a thread-like extension (axon). At the end of this axon, the nerve cell is in contact with other nerve cells via synapses.
The information flows from one nerve cell to another with the help of a chemical signal, a neurotransmitter.
What the brain needs
Even though the brain only consists of around 2% of our body mass with a weight of around 1300 g, it uses about 20% of our body’s energy.
Scientists assume that neuronal networks are formed and expanded throughout our lifetime and are boosted by the targeted activation of nerve cells. Mental performance can be boosted if the brain is kept active every day.
In addition to a continuous oxygen and energy supply, the brain also requires specific micronutrients in order to perform at its best. A varied and healthy diet including many micro- and macronutrients as well as a sufficient intake of liquid is important.
Important micronutrients for the brain function
The brain is the organ with the highest fat content at 50-60%. Unsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids, constitute as much as 35% of the fats. The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function. It is an important component of phospholipids, which are a primary constituent of the biomembrane of the nerve cells and are involved in the synthesis of the important messenger substance acetylcholine.
The following can maintain your mental agility:
- Give your concentration a boost with sudoku or crosswords, for example.
- Maintain your learning ability – learn a new language or attend a computer course.
- Remain in dialogue with other people, participate in discussions and talks.
- Remain agile and enjoy walks or other sporting activities such as yoga, hiking or cycling.
- Remain curious and interested. Attend concerts, visit exhibitions or go on a journey.