Essay: Studying neuroscience

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  • Subject area(s): Science essays
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SPECIFIC PURPOSE: I want my audience to better understand aspects of the neuroscience major.
THESIS: Neuroscience is my choice of study because the brain is a fascinating, complex organ with many unknown capabilities.
Did you know that the brain has a consistency similar to tofu? A brain may look mushy or gross, but it is arguably the most important, complex organ in the entire human body. Our brains control almost every aspect of our lives, yet we know relatively little about it.
Living with a family history of mental illness has helped me understand how a brain functions. I also worked in a pharmacy for almost a year, where I had lengthy discussions with pharmacists on duty. They admired my curiosity, and granted me personal access to a professional pharmacology database. I am credible because I spent years learning’out of self-interest’from professionals about the brain, and because I am here at WSU working for admission into the neuroscience program.
I chose to study neuroscience because I want to find cures for mental illnesses. Mental illnesses like major depression negatively impact company profits, is unnecessarily stigmatized, and severely reduces an individual’s quality of life.
Neuroscience is my choice of study because the brain is a fascinating, complex organ with many unknown features and functions.
First, I will discuss the field of neuroscience as a whole, the complexities of the human brain, and the impact of mental illness.
I. Neuroscience is a rapidly growing field with job security
a. Neuroscience is currently ‘the fastest growing area in basic scientific research’ (Normansell, 2010)
1. The 90s were officially dubbed the ‘Decade of the Brain’ by Congress to encourage more aggressive research (Normansell, 2010)
b. Research is being financed by the government and private sector
1. President Obama and the White House announced the BRAIN Initiative in April 2013, with over $300 million pledged toward it (“BRAIN Initiative,” 2014)
2. The National Institutes of Health pledged $5.55 billion to neuroscience research in 2011’a quarter of all the money pledged that year (“Neuroscience Funding Through NIH,” 2015)
c. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% increase in employment from 2012 to 2022 (“Job Profile ‘ Behavioral Neuroscientist,” 2014)
1. One factor is an increase in the size of the aging population (“Job Profile ‘ Behavioral Neuroscientist,” 2014)
2. Another factor is an increased reliance on pharmaceuticals (“Job Profile ‘ Behavioral Neuroscientist,” 2014)
Adequate funding is essential for research and development’especially neuroscience research. Substantial financing for the latest and greatest technology is needed to further explore such a complex organ.
II. We don’t know everything about the brain
a. Neurons are organized in a seemingly random, arbitrary way
1. Small changes in firing patterns can invoke vastly different behaviors according to latest research by Dr. Larry Abbott at Columbia University (Gorman, 2014)
b. New neurotransmitters are still being discovered
1. Orphan receptors are receptors that we know exist, but do not know what activates them (Yosten, Redlinger, & Samson, 2012)
2. ‘Neuronostatin’ was discovered in 2012 to interact with an orphan receptor (Yosten, Redlinger, & Samson, 2012)
c. The brain has unique genetic characteristics
1. A ‘distinct and reproducible gene signature for aging in the human brain’ was only discovered in 2013 (Kumar et al., 2013)
The more we learn about the brain, the better we may understand it. If we understand how the brain works, then we can diagnose and treat diseases more effectively.
III. Mental illness is a growing societal issue
a. Mental illness affects a profound number of young Americans
1. Mood disorders were the third most common cause of hospitalization for college students in 2013 (Duckworth, 2013)
2. Suicide was the third leading cause of death of college students in 2010, 90% of whom have a mental disorder (Duckworth, 2013)
b. Some conditions do not have a specific, known cause
1. Researchers at Newcastle University found a link between mutated DNA in a cell’s mitochondria and biochemical defects that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s (Krishnan, Ratnaike, Gruyter, Jaros, & Turnbull, 2012).
2. Dr. Turhan Canli found a possible link between inflammatory response to infection and depression in 2014 (Levin, 2015)
c. Stigmatism only makes mental illness worse
1. Those with mood disorders are often rejected by others unwilling to have them in their lives, whether it is at work, in a family, or social situation (Abdullah & Brown, 2011)
2. Those with mood disorders like depression who are socially rejected often become more depressed, as their self-esteem falls even lower (Abdullah & Brown, 2011)
The field of neuroscience is changing just as much as we think our brains are. We aren’t experts, but we know that the brain can become diseased just like any other organ. Extensive research, funded by the government and private sector, has helped us dig deeper into the causes of mental illness. There will clearly be a demand for neuroscience majors for years to come.
Becoming a neuroscientist is exciting, pays well, and opens up opportunities to find treatments that could save a fellow classmate’s life.

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