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The human brain is a marvel of nature, a complex organ that not only controls our bodily functions but also houses our thoughts, emotions, and memories. It is the seat of our consciousness, the essence of our being. But why are human brains different from those of other species? What sets us apart?

The Human Brain’s unique features for problem-solving, planning, decision -making

The answer lies in the intricate structure and function of the human brain. It is larger in relation to body size than any other animal’s. This size difference is primarily due to the expansion of the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions such as language, abstract thinking, and problem-solving. The human brain also has a highly developed prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour.

The Human Brain’s can change and adapt as a result of experience

Another unique feature of the human brain is its exceptional plasticity. This refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Neuroplasticity allows us to learn new skills, form memories, and recover from brain injury.

BDNF a protein as the learning and higher thinking memory of our brain

A key player in neuroplasticity is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. BDNF is active in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain—areas vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking.

BDNF works by binding to its high-affinity receptor TrkB (Tropomyosin receptor kinase B) on neuron surfaces. This binding activates signal transduction pathways that lead to neuronal survival, growth, differentiation and synaptic plasticity.

Two common variants of BDNF “met” and “val”

Interestingly, there are two common variants of BDNF gene: “met” (methionine) variant and “val” (valine) variant. These variants can influence memory performance and susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders.

The “met” variant has been associated with reduced activity-dependent secretion of BDNF and may increase the risk of disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, which involve the hippocampus. On the other hand, individuals with the “val” variant typically perform better on memory tests.

How “met” and “val” are processed in the brain

This difference in performance can be attributed to how BDNF is processed in the brain. In individuals with the “met” variant, BDNF does not reach the synapses during mental activity as efficiently as it does in those with the “val” variant. This could be due to a structural change in the BDNF protein that affects its distribution within neurons.

MRI scans have shown that individuals with the “met” variant have a different hippocampal activation pattern compared to those with the “val” variant. This suggests that BDNF variants can influence brain function at a macroscopic level.

In conclusion, human brains are different due to their size, structure, and remarkable plasticity. The brain factor BDNF plays a crucial role in this plasticity, influencing learning and memory. Variants of BDNF can affect its function and distribution in the brain, potentially influencing memory performance and susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders. However, more research is needed to fully understand these complex relationships and their implications for human cognition and mental health.