Drugs Act on Various Parts of the Brain to Affect the BodyThe hindbrain controls vital functions within the body, including breathing and heart rate. The hindbrain includes the top of the spinal cord, part of the brain stem and the cerebellum.The cerebellum coordinates body movements and learned physical skills that allow the person to hit a tennis ball or play the piano. Drugs can affect these areas of the brain to cause a person to forget how to do these things.
The MidbrainMany drugs affect the midbrain, which plays an important role in motivation, reward, addiction and movement.The reward center in the midbrain reinforces behaviors that lead to pleasure and life-sustaining activities, such as eating and drinking. The midbrain controls some reflex actions and participates in the control of eye movements and other voluntary motions.The medulla oblongata, located in the brain stem, is the center for vital functions, including breathing, heart and blood vessel control, coughing and vomiting. Overdoses of alcohol or barbiturates can depress the medulla to stop functioning, causing the individual to die of suffocation and heart stoppage. Drugs that stimulate the medulla oblongata can cause vomiting.
The ForebrainThe most developed part of the human brain is the forebrain. It includes the cerebrum, the most noticeable part of the brain in pictures and drawings, the thalamus and the hypothalamus. Sitting at the top of the brain, the cerebrum is the source of intellect, memory, planning, imagination and cognitive skills. The cerebrum allows humans to read, recognize faces, make intricate plans, and create complex concepts.
The CerebellumThe cerebellum is responsible for muscle coordination, tone and equilibrium. Barbiturates and alcohol depress the cerebellum to cause uncoordinated body movements and poor balance. Stimulants over-stimulate the cerebellum to cause tremors.Opiates, barbiturates and alcohol can depress the cerebrum to dull perceptions and sensations, and cause sleepiness and concentration problems2. Drugs that act in the cortex cause signals coming into the brain to seem more vivid, creating a sense of greater awareness of the surroundings and sometimes hallucinations.
The ThalamusThe thalamus is the relay center of the brain, through which all incoming and outgoing signals pass the thalamus processes sensations to determine whether a situation is agreeable or disagreeable. Tranquilizers, opiates, and other drugs depress the thalamus to prevent unpleasant sensations from reaching the cortex; this action causes the person to feel good.
The HypothalamusThe hypothalamus, located just below the thalamus, helps to regulate body temperature, metabolism of fat and carbohydrates, water balance, hunger and feelings of satiation, pleasure and pain.Some drugs depress the hypothalamus to cause sleepiness, or affect natural sleep-related chemicals active in the hypothalamus.Other drugs, including aspirin, affect the way the body regulates heat and temperature. Amphetamines and other stimulants stimulate the pleasure centers and satiety, which causes the consumer to feel good, alert and not hungry, even when the person has not eaten or slept enough to maintain good health.The hypothalamus links directly to the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the function of internal organs including the stomach, intestines and heart. Recreational drugs exert major effects in the hypothalamus. Overstimulation of the hypothalamus can trigger ulcers, high blood pressure and other psychosomatic illness, which are physical illnesses brought about or aggravated by brain activity.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders: Brain Basics: Know Your Brain. April 28, 2014. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm
- Indiana University, Bloomington. Information about Drugs. http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/rbook/drug.html
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