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Tuesday, 30 March 2021

☀ A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist - Mike Tranter PhD

Thank you for joining us on the Virtual Book Tour for A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist, a non-fiction, easy popular brain science by (, Mike Tranter, 232 pages).

Don't miss our interview with author Mike Tranter PhD.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and the Kindle Cloud Reader Preview below.

A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist
is FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

Author Mike Tranter PhD will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀), interviews (ℚ), reviews (✍) and guest blog posts (✉).

|| Synopsis || Teaser: Excerpt || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||


A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist answers some of the most asked questions about the brain, making the science fun and accessible to everyone. Inside, you will journey through some of the most interesting and strange things that our brain does every single day.

Have you always wanted to know just what a memory actually is, or why we dream? What is our consciousness? Why do some people seem to ‘click’ with others? And can our brain really multi-task?

This book makes the brain fun and easy to enjoy. Anyone who is curious about what really goes on in that mushy pink thing inside their head will enjoy this guide to the brain and neuroscience. Join neuroscientist Mike Tranter PhD as he explains the brain in his unique and funny style. He answers questions that were submitted by the public, and the best part is, no scientific background is needed whatsoever.

Includes a chapter describing some of the strange mysteries about the brain, and a behind the scenes look at how cutting-edge neuroscience research will change the future.

Finally, the brain is made easy.




What is our brain? Yes, it is the pink mushy thing inside our head that helps us to communicate, to learn new things, to keep us awake at night worrying about that awkward joke we told a week ago, to ... well, do almost everything - but what exactly is it?
     The brain is the control centre of everything that our body does, almost all of which is controlled outside of our conscious mind so we don't even have to think about it We don't consciously control when we are hungry or tired, or when to change our blood pressure or heart rate, and we certainly don't tell ourselves to feel pain when we stub our toe. The brain does all of that, and considerably more every second of the day, even when we sleep.


Without getting too detailed just yet (I don't want to scare you away), let's talk about what our brain is actually made of. You are probably aware that the brain consists of brain cells, called neurons. These are the cells that send signals (called action potentials) all over the brain and connect with other brain cells in an extraordinarily complex and ever-changing network. An estimated 88 billion neurons exist in your brain, and each one can have thousands or tens of thousands of endings, which form synapses when connected to other neurons.
     Impressed yet? Well, how about when I tell you that some of these neurons can send action potentials at nearly 300 miles per hour? That's faster than a Formula 1 car! A typical neuron is drawn below and consists of a cell body containing the nucleus (it stores the DNA and dishes out instructions), an axon (the railway the train of signals travels along), dendrites (which are like the smaller railways going to specific places) and the synapse (the mediaeval drawbridge where the railway stops and messages are thrown over the gap). That's it! That's all there is to a brain cell, and now you know about one of the most important cells in the body, you are officially a neuroscientist.

The dendrites of the neuron will form connections with others. These connections, will result in a synapse where the neurotransmitters are released. The axons can also be coated in myelin to make the electrical signals travel more efficiently.


At the synapse, neurotransmitters are released. These are chemicals that do just as advertised - they 'transmit' a signal between neurons. Because the synapse is essentially just a gap between neurons, they need a way to send messages across, and so neurotransmitters are released. When an action potential travels along one neuron it eventually gets to the end, where the signal causes the release of a neurotransmitter. When the second neuron receives it (it binds to specialised receptors that 'catch' the neurotransmitter), the neuron knows to carry on the signal - like a relay runner handing over the baton. These signals, which are nothing more than coded electrical messages, will give our brain instructions. This could be to recall a memory, to laugh at a joke or to fall asleep - anything really.
     You may have heard of some neurotransmitters already, such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and glutamate. They basically represent the languages of the brain. Some neurons speak the language of dopamine and some speak serotonin, for example. It is a way for our brain to talk to the areas that it wants, such as the dopamine-speaking parts, rather than let the entire brain hear the message, which would only confuse it.


When scientists talk about the brain being made up of neurons, they actually tell a little bit of a lie: it also consists of other types of brain cells such as glial cells. The brain has nearly 10 times as many glial cells as it does neurons. The term glial cell is a broad term for a number of specialised cells. For example, microglial cells act like our brain's immune system because our normal immune cells and antibodies, would be far too destructive if let loose in the brain. Glial cells also develop into a specialised cell type called an astrocyte. Around 25-50% of our brain is made of astrocytes, which means we have up to five times more of them than neurons. Astrocytes are supportive cells that float along right next to neurons and help out any way they can. They also do many things for themselves, such as creating structure amongst the cells, absorbing and releasing neurotransmitters just like the synapse does, and promoting the formation of a barrier called the blood-brain barrier. Other cells include the ependymal cells, which create cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that protects the brain and remove wastes products, and the oligodendrocytes, which are a type of cell that coat the axon of a neuron with myelin to help it transmit signals better. You don't need to know too much about them for now. We will go over them later, but it gives you a good idea that there is a lot more than just the typical brain cell in that brain of yours.


If you read about the brain, you will often see people talking about the blood-brain barrier, or BBB. In short, the blood in our body is the transport system for everything. The blood vessels act like the road system we drive on every day. Just like the roads, our blood carries all sorts of traffic, like cars (red blood cells), emergency services (the immune cells), food trucks (food particles, fats, proteins, sugars, etc.) and criminals on the run (bacteria, viruses). The brain is too important to be involved in all of this action, so a barrier is formed between the blood supply for the rest of our body and that specifically for the brain. Oxygen, glucose and red blood cells all pass through easily, but bacteria, immune cells and just about everything else, do not (although there are times when they do cross over and this is bad news for our health). The BBB is one hurdle that we, as scientists, have to cross (literally) when we want to create drugs that target the brain. As great as it is at protecting the brain, it also causes issues with getting medications across.


All of the cells mentioned above are broadly grouped into either white or grey matter. They are named this way because there is a subtle difference in colour between them, with one looking more greyish than the other. White matter is seen within the spinal cord and deeper levels of the brain. It is made from the long axons of the neurons and gets its white colour from a fatty substance that coats them called myelin. The myelin helps to insulate the cell. White matter also contains a lot of astrocytes.
      Grey matter is predominantly found in the outer layers of the brain and in the cerebellum. It contains the cell bodies of the neurons, the dendrites, many glial cells and smaller blood vessels called capillaries. The grey matter is the control hub for the neurons and where all of the clever brain power comes from. Although white and grey matter can be defined by the regions of the brain and spinal cord in which we find them, there is also some overlap, meaning that you can get sneaky little cell bodies and glial cells even in white matter.
      This is what our brains are made from. Now you know. Keep this in mind when someone tells you that the brain is a muscle - you can tell them how very wrong they are, and explain what the brain really is.


All of these structures and cells that we have just learned about are organised in a very sophisticated way. Our brain loves organising, but with it comes a style of compartmentalising that has taken millions of years to develop. This means that although the brain generally works as a single-unit 'whole brain', there are regions (called lobes) that are specialised for specific tasks. The brain is comprised of four major lobes (plus the minor insula and limbic lobes). They each have their own jobs to do befo re connecting with other regions to share the responsibilities. Although they can be divided into smaller regions (around 180), these four lobes give you a good idea of how your brain is organised .

The typical lobes of the brain. Don't worry about them too much for now, we will talk about them later.

The easy way

A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist
Available NOW!

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About the Author

Dr Mike Tranter is from the North of England and studied how drugs work in our body, but it wasn't long before he found his true calling as a neuroscientist.

After a PhD in neuroscience, he spent years in research labs all over the world, studying how the brain works. Although, it is his prominent rise as a science communicator, opening up the world of neuroscience to everybody, that he enjoys the most.

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1 comment:

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks so much for hosting!