working in labs reduces my brain capacity (suggestions needed)

Tristan Davies tbd at
Sat Sep 19 21:11:55 EST 1992

In article <80058 at ut-emx.uucp> struggle at (robotron) writes:
-->Hi Folks:
-->	I have a few small questions regarding brain health. 
-->	1) Since the brain does not have pain sensory neurons, in
-->order to feel an ordinary headache (not a stroke), a lot of cerebral
-->neurons have to die first, i.e., enough damages must have been done to
-->the brain first before you can feel a headache; otherwise, the brain
-->can not receive enough inputs to generate a feeling of pain; am I

I think I understand this only well enough to say you're on the 
wrong track.  The pain from headaches originates in the meninges
(the connective tissue around the brain, aka the dura).  Meninges
do have the endings of pain-sensitive neurons, hence they are
able to sense and transmit pain to the CNS.  Does this answer your 

-->	2) Lipid soluble substances can pass through the blood-brain
-->barrier rather easily; thus, if you work in a lab and you can
-->periodically smell vapors of substances with low polarity, those
-->substances will pass through the blood-brain barrier and will cause
-->significant number of neurons to die; as a consequence, you may become
-->less intelligent, and you may forget things that you have learned.
-->Anyway, how difficult is it for a substance like toluene to kill a
-->neuron? and what kind of substance is the most detrimental to the

The short answer: I don't know. I don't think anyone knows.  That's
why you should work with these kinds of chemicals in a fume hood whenever

The long[er] answer:  It's not that simple.  You're assuming that when
you inhale something like toluene, it makes a beeline for your brain.
I really doubt it.  First, it's absorbed by the mucus lining your sinus
cavities, then it has to cross the olfactory epithelium to even make
it into your bloodstream. [Of course, it might kill off a few olfactory
receptor cells, but those neurons are continually dying and being
replaced anyway, so it's no big deal.] Once the stuff makes it into your 
blood, I bet a large amount of it is taken up and detoxified by the
liver before it can get to the brain.  Detoxifying your blood is one
of the most crucial functions of the liver [but that's a topic for
bionet.organ.physiology :^)].

Hope this helps, and maybe other folks will correct whatever
mistakes I've made...


e-mail: tbd at
Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center

"grblb blabt unt mipt speeb!! oot piffoo blaboo..." -- Opus

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