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What Is the Brain Parenchyma?

Changes in age can affect the way tissues function in the brain, also known as brain parenchyma.
Brain parenchyma is partially made up of neurons that communicate with organs or muscles of the body.
The areas of the brain.
Doctor reviewing the brain x-ray.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Revised By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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The brain parenchyma is the functional tissue in the brain. It's comprised of two types of cells that are used specifically for cognition and controlling the rest of the body. The remaining brain tissue is known as stroma, which is the supportive or structural tissue. Damage or trauma to the brain parenchyma often results in a loss of cognitive ability or even death.

Components

The brain parenchyma consists of neurons and glial cells. The neurons fulfill three main functions: afferent neurons are used to transmit messages from sensory organs to the brain and Central Nervous System (CNS), while efferent neurons send information and commands from the CNS to the muscles and glands. The third type, interneurons, are used for communication between the other two types.

These are supported and maintained by three types of glial cells. Oligodendroglia surround and insulate them, while astroglia physically support them and provide them with nutrition. They also eat debris and parts of dead neurons, as do microglia, the third type. Additionally, they regulate the concentration of ions in the space in between cells in the brain parenchyma, which keeps the organ as a whole functioning properly, and support the blood-brain barrier, which prevents certain substances from entering the brain via blood vessels. These cells also help with repairs following an injury.

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As Compared to Stroma

The other categorization of cells in the brain is stroma, which includes blood vessels and connective tissue. It consists primarily of two sets of arteries, three sets of veins, and smaller capillaries that penetrate into the tissue, and the connective tissue that supports them. Though it doesn't perform the cognitive and management functions that the brain parenchyma does, it's still essential for the brain to function, since it provides it with nutrients and oxygen from the rest of the body. Additionally, problems with the stroma can be extremely serious. For example, if a cerebral blood vessel ruptures, the subsequent hemorrhaging can cause blood to build up in parenchymal tissue, raising the risk for stroke or memory loss.

Problems

A number of different conditions can affect the brain parenchyma. Changes due to age, deterioration, trauma, or damage to the stroma can cause a wide range of conditions, including dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Infections can also affect these cells, as in the case of encephalitis or meningitis. Additionally, cell abnormalities can lead to growths and tumors that can put pressure on or permanently damage the surrounding tissue or spread throughout the body.

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Discuss this Article

anon335749
Post 4

@MrsPramm: I would tend to agree with you. In fact, it is very easy to prove. We only need to answer the question 'how does a thought originate?' or 'where does the SA node in our heart get the energy to generate the first pulse of a heart cycle at almost clock like precision?'

My view is the brain perceives and paints a picture for the soul to act. In dementia or Alzheimer's, the ability of brain to paint this picture is diminished/lost. And the soul (being energy itself) provides the energy to the SA node.

Mor
Post 3

@umbra21 - Well, it's a good thing to remember that the brain isn't magical. Often when people gain what seems like amazing abilities from brain damage, what they've actually gained is an intense focus on a particular skill, sometimes to the detriment of other things, and that leads them to become extraordinary at that skill. An ordinary person could achieve the same thing if they were similarly focused.

The brain is still somewhat mysterious, but we actually know a huge amount about it now. There is a lot of misinformation about it around though.

umbra21
Post 2

@MrsPramm - I'm sure some people would debate that everything we consider to be a soul is contained in the brain. I would prefer if it wasn't true myself. When you think about how vulnerable the brain is to disease and damage, it makes you kind of question who a person actually is deep inside.

Is an Alzheimer patient losing themselves, or is it only that they have a kind of disability and their soul is still intact? I like to think that they remain who they are and the brain is only the trappings of that.

But it is definitely fascinating reading about people who have gained or lost abilities because of brain damage, particularly when they gain abilities. It makes you wonder what talents are inherent in all of us, hidden in our brains, in the mass of grey matter.

MrsPramm
Post 1

It's incredible how many different facets there are to the human brain. I mean, you've got the physical aspects to it here, the gross structures and the cells and how they are all connected to each other and to the rest of the body.

And then you've got the way they work, and how we experience it. When you think about how everything that a human would recognize as being a part of soul or consciousness is contained in the cells that make up the brain parenchyma. And they are just a sort of formless looking (to the layman, anyway) grey mass, but are also so very special.

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