Brain Basics

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The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior. Read Brain Basics pages to learn more about how the brain works, and its important role in human health. The brain is one of the hardest working organs in the body. When the brain is healthy it functions quickly and automatically. But when problems occur, the results can be devastating. Some 100 million Americans suffer from devastating brain disorders at some point in their lives. This is a test.

The NINDS supports research on more than 600 neurological diseases. Some of the major types of disorders include: neurogenetic diseases (such as Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy), developmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy), degenerative diseases of adult life (such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease), metabolic diseases (such as Gaucher’s disease), cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke and vascular dementia), trauma (such as spinal cord and head injury), convulsive disorders (such as epilepsy), infectious diseases (such as AIDS dementia), and brain tumors.

Knowing more about the brain can lead to the development of new treatments for diseases and disorders of the nervous system and improve many areas of human health.

Know Your Brain thumbnail - multi-colored brain sections

Know Your Brain

A primer on the brain and brain structure for non-scientists, compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This educational resource is a basic introduction to the human brain; it may help readers understand how a healthy brain works.

Read more about your brain

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Understanding Sleep

Do you ever feel sleepy or "zone out" during the day? Do you find it hard to wake up on Monday mornings? We’ve all felt the powerful need for sleep, but you may not realize that sleep is as important for your well-being as food and water!

Read more to understand sleep

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Preventing Stroke

Strokes, one of the leading killers in the United States, occur when the brain fails to get enough blood. A stroke can be devastating to individuals and their families, robbing them of their independence. Learn about this common cause of disability – and how to prevent it.

Read more about stroke

Life and Death of a Neuron thumbnail - cell dendrite neuron

Life and Death of a Neuron

The brain is made of many cells, one of which is the neuron. As we grow and learn, so do new neurons to help build the pathways - called neural circuits - that act as information highways between different areas of the brain. Learn how neurons grow, work, and – sometimes- die in our brains.

Read more about neurons

Genes and the Brain - illustration of human brain and DNA

Genes and the Brain

Genes carry information about our unique traits passed to us by our parents – they are at the center of what makes us human. We all have over 20,000 genes, some of which direct how our brains grow and work. Which genes turn on, the environment around us, and our experiences control who we are and our health.

Read more about genes and the brain

    NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

    All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS

    NINDS Publications
    Find printed materials on neurological disorders for patients and their families, health professionals, and the general public in the NINDS publications catalog.