The reticular system of the brain is a network of interconnected neurons that extends from the medulla oblongata to the thalamus. This system regulates many vital functions, including wakefulness, attention, and motor control.
Dr. Curtis Cripe, head of NTL Group’s research and development team, notes that the reticular system is divided into two main regions: the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) and the descending reticular inhibiting system (DIRS). The ARAS is responsible for promoting wakefulness and alertness, while the DIRS regulates sleep and relaxation.
The reticular system plays a key role in the brain’s reward system. This system is responsible for releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation. The dopamine release in the reward system makes activities such as eating, sex, and exercise pleasurable.
Dopamine plays a major role in addiction and substance abuse. Drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin, cause a large release of dopamine in the brain’s reward system. This leads to the feeling of euphoria that is often associated with drug use.
The reticular system is also involved in learning and memory. It has been shown to be necessary for the formation of new memories, as well as the consolidation of old ones.
Common problems with the reticular system include sleep disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and addiction. Treatment for these conditions often focuses on correcting the underlying imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters.
Specialists who research the reticular system are called neuroscientists. They use a variety of tools and techniques to study the brain. These include functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
According to Dr. Curtis Cripe, neuroscientists are constantly working to better understand the brain and its many complex functions. By studying the reticular system, they hope to develop better treatments for conditions that affect the brain.
Learn more about NTL Group’s research and development head Dr. Curtis Cripe and the work he does by clicking on this link.