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THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN
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Program 4: The Adult Brain: To Think by Feeling
The adult brain is the apotheosis of the human intellect; reason once was regarded as supreme. But now, the interaction of the emotional and reasoning functions of the brain is considered integral to over all well-being. Disorders, such as stroke, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, may interfere with this process, but there is hope for rehabilitation and recovery.

Headline

New Discoveries

Emotions are an important guide to making decisions and navigating through life. But when negative, but useful, emotions, such as fear, persist for a longer duration than normal, it's a problem. New studies indicate that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) produces biochemical changes that maintain the condition. If beta blockers, which block the action of adrenaline, are given soon after the onset of trauma, PTSD may be short circuited.

Childhood trauma and abuse are strong indicators of adult depression. Early trauma and abuse may actually train the brain to become susceptible to stress and depression later in life.

Career Focus

Neuroscientist

To become a research or academic neuroscientist with one's own lab, a doctorate or medical degree is required. However, a career in neuroscience can take different forms, many of which have fewer educational requirements. A bachelor's or master's is sufficient to work in a research laboratory. High school graduates can work as lab technicians or in fields such as prosthetics. Computer specialists work in artificial intelligence, a rapidly developing area.
Paul Aravich
Paul Aravich, Associate Professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School.


When Professor Paul Aravich was a kid taking a walk, he began to ponder how he was able to walk. The more he thought about it, the more he realized what a miracle the act of walking was. In neuroscience, he could explore the limitless possibilities of "the universe between our ears," as well as fulfill his desires to help people and to teach.

Aravich feels that the neuroscientist has three obligations: to do research, to perform service, and to teach. "A teacher's efforts are multiplied a hundred times over through the work of his students," says Dr. Aravich. But teaching is not limited to the classroom. Teaching also occurs in public service settings, such as churches, community centers, city councils, and state assemblies. These venues are important in educating the public so they can take a more active part in advocating for legislation to support neuroscience initiatives that effect public health, for example, chemical dependency policy or bike helmet laws.

To become a neuroscientist at the doctoral level usually requires 16 years of education beyond high school. The field is very demanding, and often low paying, so one has to have the fire in the belly -- passion -- to stick with it. Dr. Aravich feels that a broad educational background, including the arts and humanities, is invaluable because it helps develop creative thinking. "It's not enough to be smart in neuroscience," says Dr. Aravich. "Medicine and research require creativity. You have to be able to look at problems creatively in order to solve them."

All the long years of training and hard work are difficult, but Dr. Aravich finds it tremendously rewarding to be able to make "an authentic difference in the lives of others. Ameliorating suffering and pain is incredibly satisfying."

Here is a list of resources related to a career in Neurosience.



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