Spiderwebs and the Brain
With October 31st creeping up, we see more and more Halloween décor. Not only are people decorating with carved pumpkins and silly or spooky ghosts, but they are also putting up spiderwebs. Between real and decorative spiderwebs, webs seem to always appear in nature. These webs have a lot in common with our brains, and can give us an idea of how our brain works. In this blog post, we discuss how spiderwebs remind us about how our brains work.
How exactly can there be a link between a spider web and our brains?
Like a spider web made of thousands of strands of silk, our brains are made up of billions of neurons which are connected to one another by dendrites and axon terminals. Like the silk in a spiderweb, our neurons have a fatty coating known as myelin, which helps our neurons conduct signals to one another. Like how a spider is making and repairing different parts of its web, our brains make and replace neurons overtime, a process known as neurogenesis.
Like how spiderwebs are tied to posts on porches or hidden between branches of a bush or tree, our brains are connected to our spinal cord and protected by our skull. When heavy wind or rain comes, it can sometimes break a spiderweb or blow it away all together. Like heavy wind or rain, a blunt force trauma to our brain such as when someone falls may cause certain brain regions to lose connection with one another. Damage to our brain may occur from neurological injury such as a concussion, psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, or abnormal aging conditions such as dementia. It is important that we protect and nurture our brains as much as possible, so that the threads in our brains do not become disconnected and stay strong with one another.
When a spiderweb gets broken, the spider fixes it with some work. Sometimes when someone’s brain is injured or not working as they want it to, it may cause them to experience cognitive or psychological “holes”, which need some repair. To repair these “holes”, a person may seek cognitive remediation therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a different course of treatment that addresses their cognitive and emotional needs. People who provide these services include psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and medical doctors, to name a few!
This Halloween while you are out trick-or-treating or taking a walk and you see a spider web, take a minute to not only appreciate the beauty and mystique surrounding spiderwebs, but how this intricate structure is a lot like your brain. In fact, we even have spider-like cells, known as astrocytes, which regulate the flow of blood and passing of blood through the blood brain barrier!