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Eukaryon

Neil’s Life through Alzheimer’s

Josie Klein
Lake Forest College

Hello, my name is Neil and I am a neuron. It is currently September 28, 2018, and I have been living in a wonderful woman named Elizabeth for about sixty-seven years now. Elizabeth is what I would call a physically and mentally healthy person. She eats well, exercises, and always spends time with her family by going to her grandchildren’s extracurricular events. I am honored to be a neuron in Elizabeth’s hippocampal region of the brain. This means I can help her remember special moments in her life, like her high school graduation, her wedding, and even the bright, smiling faces of her five grandchildren when she told them they were going to Disney World for vacation. Overall, I would say that Elizabeth lives a happy life; however, lately, she’s been acting a little weird. Yesterday, she forgot to pick Amanda, her youngest grandchild, up from school! I mentioned her strange behavior to the other neurons in the hippocampal region and they were equally as confused by what was happening. Elizabeth never forgets anything because neurons like me work hard to help her remember. Were we doing something wrong? I am determined to figure out what is happening to Elizabeth but in order to figure it out I have to go back to where my journey began.

 

My journey began before Elizabeth was out of the womb. When Elizabeth was a fetus about four weeks old, I was born into her life through a process called proliferation.[1] This means that I, along with many other neurons, was created by the division of cells in the neural tube. After our creation, we followed the signals from neighboring neurons to find our way to where we belonged in the neural tube. During this process of migration, I made some friends with the radial glial cells that helped me get to where I needed to go in the neural tube. The next thing I remember happening is aggregation. Me and my fellow hippocampus bound neurons joined together to form the hippocampus of the brain. Once the hippocampus was created, we went through the process of maturation. During this process I started to grow an axon and dendrites, which were guided in the right direction by the growth cone on the end of my growing structures. After my axons and dendrites were completely grown, I began to communicate with the neurons around me. By communicating we formed synapses that Elizabeth would use for the remainder of her life.[2] Once Elizabeth was born, she was able to strengthen the neuronal connections I made with other neurons by learning and taking in what was in her surrounding environment.[3] My connection with my best neuron friend, George, became increasingly stronger over Elizabeth’s childhood because she was using us more often as her schooling continued. We were able to communicate efficiently with each other because we went through myelogenesis, which myelinated our axons to help transfer our messages to each other. [4] Now that you’re caught up with how I developed and got to the hippocampus of Elizabeth’s brain I can tell you what developments have occurred.

 

As you have already learned Elizabeth has been having some minor memory failure recently, which is not only concerning me but also her family. Over the last few weeks Elizabeth’s conditions have been getting progressively worse. She is not only forgetting when she has meetings but is now struggling to recall the names of common items and seems agitated lately.[5] I have also noticed that my friend George no longer listens to me when I try to communicate with him. I can imagine that the frustration I feel with George is similar to the frustration Elizabeth’s husband feels with her when she doesn’t remember that they have plans or how to pay the bills. I am confused and frustrated with what is happening to Elizabeth. I think that she should see a doctor, so we can fix this mess. Thankfully Elizabeth’s husband is taking her to the doctor tomorrow. The doctor discovers that she most likely has familial Alzheimer’s Disease. Although I am glad that Elizabeth has finally been diagnosed, I am scared for what is to come. Alzheimer’s disease causes beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles to form in brains and will cause neuronal death and eventually the death of Elizabeth.[6] I now realize that the reason George hasn’t been responding to me is because he is been invaded by the tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s Disease. The beta-amyloid plaques have formed in the brain’s environment because the high level of beta-amyloid 42 collects between the synapses of neurons like George and me. These plaques disrupt the communication between neurons while the tau tangles that gather disrupt the process of an individual neuron. In George’s case, the tau tangles formed because the tau protein that normally stabilizes the microtubules, instead collects with other tau proteins blocking the neurons nutrient and messaging system.[7] George’s failure to transfer what he needs to will end in his death. Although George’s death is upsetting, I know that I must stay strong of Elizabeth so that she can live as long as possible.

 

Now that it has been a few months, Elizabeth’s condition has gotten much worse. She has gone from forgetting a few minor events to not being able to remember her grandchildrens’ names. Elizabeth also struggles to complete daily tasks; the majority of her neurons are dead. This drastic change in neuronal death can be explained by the brains attempt to protect itself from the plaques by directing microglial cells to “control” the situation. The microglial cells only make the situation worse by causing chronic inflammation in the brain.[8] I am very lonely with all the neuron death that surrounds me. Most of my friends are dead or will be soon.  As for Elizabeth, she only gets worse each day. Because there are no treatments for Alzheimer and her condition is too far along to take medicine for symptoms of the disease, all there is left to do is wait.[9]

 

The neuronal loss has become so significant that Elizabeth is experiencing a loss in volume of her brain or brain atrophy.[10] I know that with the increasing rate of her conditions our time is near. Although I am sad to have to say goodbye to my friends and will soon have to say goodbye to Elizabeth, I am happy I was able to spend so many years with them. I have accepted the fact that the beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles will eventually kill both me and Elizabeth; however, I will never forget the memories she shared with me.

 

 

References

Pinel, J. P., & Edwards, M. (1998). A colorful introduction to the anatomy of the human brain: A brain and psychology coloring book. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs e.

Grubin, D. (Writer). (2002, January 22). Secret Life of the Brain [Television series episode]. In The Secret Lives of the Brain. Public Broadcasting Service.

Episode 1,2,5

 

[1]
Grubin, D. (Writer). (2002, January 22). Secret Life of the Brain [Television series episode]. In The Secret Lives of the Brain. Public Broadcasting Service.

Episode 1: Baby’s Brain

 

[2] Pinel, J. P., & Edwards, M. (1998). A colorful introduction to the anatomy of the human brain: A brain and psychology coloring book. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

[3]
Grubin, D. (Writer). (2002, January 22). Secret Life of the Brain [Television series episode]. In The Secret Lives of the Brain. Public Broadcasting Service.

Episode 2: Child’s Brain

 

[4] Pinel, J. P., & Edwards, M. (1998). A colorful introduction to the anatomy of the human brain: A brain and psychology coloring book. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

[5] 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs

[6] Grubin, D. (Writer). (2002, January 22). Secret Life of the Brain [Television series episode]. In The Secret Lives of the Brain. Public Broadcasting Service.

Episode 5: Aging Brain

 

[7] What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease

[8] What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease

[9] 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs

[10] What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease

 

 

Process Paragraph

The first step I took to write this paragraph was pick out the disease that I would be writing about, which was Alzheimer’s disease. I also picked out the names of the characters I would use in the story line. Then I used the Secrets of the Brain videos to begin outlining my essay. I gathered all of the information that I wanted to use about the life a neuron before it is affected by the disease. I also found some information in the videos on the disease. I found other resources such as the coloring book we use in class to help describe the life of a neuron before the disease sets in and also found some sources that described the symptoms and development of Alzheimer’s disease. After the outline was complete, I wrote my entire essay and had a peer proofread the essay for any content, spelling and grammar mistakes. Then I read my essay to myself to make sure it flowed smoothly.

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Articles published within Eukaryon should not be cited in bibliographies. Material contained herein should be treated as personal communication and should be cited as such only with the consent of the author.