The Habenular Complex

If you have a similar obsession (or even interest) in learning about the body, you might also enjoy learning about the origin of some of the anatomical terms that map the different parts of our physicality and more specifically, why those words were chosen.

The names of different bones and muscles and shapes often have origins in agriculture, astronomy and the natural world, and for some reason, stumbling across a particular name for a body part and learning that its name has a connection with a celestial object or a bird is something I find inherently delightful. It’s like yet another reminder of our connection to everything.

Here’s one of my current favourites. Our horse-dependent history means that a few of our body structures are also named according to equestrian themes. The habenular complex, for instance, is a group of nerve cells with important regulatory functions. The term itself is borrowed from a diminutive of “habena”, meaning reins.

For those of you wanting to nerd out with me, this is an exert from some info I was reading about the Habenula:

“Surviving in a world with hidden rewards and dangers requires choosing the appropriate behaviours. Recent discoveries indicate that the habenula plays a prominent part in such behavioural choice through its effects on neuromodulator systems, in particular, the dopamine and serotonin systems. By inhibiting dopamine-releasing neurons, habenula activation leads to the suppression of motor behaviour when an animal fails to obtain a reward or anticipates an aversive outcome. Moreover, the habenula is involved in behavioural responses to pain, stress, anxiety, sleep and reward, and its dysfunction is associated with depression, schizophrenia and drug-induced psychosis. As a highly conserved structure in the brain, the habenula provides a fundamental mechanism for both survival and decision-making.”

How cool is that?! Although using the reins for control is a whole other conversation in itself, it’s a wonder to me that the word was gifted to a part of our brain that is all about our ability to choose appropriate behaviours.

I love it.

Onwards.

❤️Jane

p.s. The article that particular excerpt was taken from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447364/

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