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                                    Our Brain and our Body

In class on Thursday, Paul Grobstein stated that our brains are in charge of the universe and that we’re in charge of our brains. With our brains we can write stories, change stories, and then create new stories. He argues that our brain is “a very sophisticated and intelligent part of our body that analyzes what’s important and makes informed predictions based on the information it’s given.” Paul claims that because of this, our brains affect how we perceive the world and also how our bodies work. Although I find Paul’s claim on the brain incredibly interesting, I personally had an experience a few years ago that causes me to question his statement.

It was summer 2006 and I was vacationing for a week in Hawaii with my family. I had been sharing a room with my brother all week and every night he woke me up because of my unsteady and heavy breathing that I wasn’t aware about. A few months earlier I had a few other conditions such as an elevated heart rate, anxiety, fatigue, and short-temper and random mood swings. My parents dismissed all of these symptoms believing that my behavior was the result of being a growing hormonal teenager. The heavy night breathing is what triggered the idea that there was something actually wrong with me. As soon as we returned home to San Diego my parents immediately made an appointment with the doctors. After a few blood tests I was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid condition known as hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid is not really a part of the body you hear about a lot. In short, it’s located in the neck area and regulates the metabolism of the body. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones remove iodine from the blood and use it to produce thyroid hormones, which are then used to stimulate the metabolism of cells.

At first, the thyroid and Paul’s claims are indeed linked. In fact, the thyroid itself is linked to a part of the brain called the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland regulates hormone function and controls all other glands that regulate hormone secretion in the body. “The gland is a critical part of our ability to respond to the environment most often without our knowledge.”(neurosurgery) This directly corresponds to Paul’s idea that the subconscious is incredibly smart and looks out for our body’s best interest.

The connection between the thyroid and the pituitary is that the rate of thyroid hormone production is regulated by the pituitary gland. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are both examples of this. In hypothyroidism the body actually produces fewer hormones and the body’s metabolism slows down. This occurs because there is a low thyroid hormone level in the body and the pituitary gland fails to release more THS (thyroid stimulating hormone). In hyperthyroidism, the body is producing numerous amounts of hormones and the pituitary gland is failing to reduce the amount of THS it tells the thyroid to release. So in fact, the thyroid depends on the pituitary to tell it the amount of hormones to release and when the pituitary fails, the thyroid fails.

There is also a part to the connection between the thyroid and the pituitary gland that contradicts Paul Grobstein’s claim. Actually, the thyroid regulates the pituitary gland just as much as the pituitary gland regulates the thyroid. “If there is an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the body to allow for normal functioning, the release of TSH is increased by the pituitary in an attempt to stimulate the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.” In contrast, if there is an excessive amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the body, then the pituitary gland reduces the amount of THS released in order to “decrease the production of thyroid hormone.” {} Here we again can see how the brain is unconsciously “looking out for our best interest.”(class discussion) Without the thyroid, the pituitary gland would not know when to release the thyroid hormones or how much to release. All in all, the thyroid gland is dependent on the pituitary gland in the brain but the pituitary gland is also reliant on the thyroid.

            The example of the pituitary gland and the thyroid is just to show that the brain is not the center of our body’s functional abilities. Yes, it tells our body what to do and how to react, but the brain also depends on our body’s experiences to tell it should do. So, to make a claim more accurate and believable based on new research, the brain may effect what we see, how we perceive things in life, and how our bodies function, but it is not the center of our functioning body. The brain is in fact subject to the body just as much as the body is subject to the brain.



-Grobstein, Paul. “Illusions, ambiguous figures, and impossible figures:

informed guessing and beyond.” The Brain’s Constructions and Deconstructions of Reality. 17 May 2008.


-Grobstein, Paul. “The Brain’s Constructions and Deconstructions of Reality” (lecture, Bryn Mawr College, Dalton 06. Thursday November 18, 2010)

-Mathur, Ruchi. “Hyperthyroidism” 22 June 2008.

-Norman, James. “Thyroid Gland Function.” 29 March 2009.

-University of Pittsburgh “What is the Pituitary Gland?” Department of Neurological Surgery. 2001-2010