Money & the Reticular Formation

My blog-post today is about two things: the cost of treatments in the medical field and the reticular formation.

As I was finishing up Brain on Fire, one piece of information stuck out to me beyond any other. Susannah Cahalan said that, in total, all of her treatments cost 1 million dollars. Susannah Cahalan explains that she was fortunate enough to have insurance that paid for most of that cost and anything that insurance didn’t cover her family could pay for our of pocket. I am aware that medical treatments are costly, but that number just blew me away. Most people, well over the majority, probably would not be able to pay for that. What would happen to those people? Would they just be misdiagnosed and never treated? Susannah Cahalan also discusses that steps are being made to blend psychiatry and neurology in a way that will allow the proper care to be provided to those who have psychiatric disorders. This also brings up a point that we discussed in class about why “physical” symptoms are required in order for proper treatment to be received. Susannah Cahalan was on the brink of being sent to the psychiatric ward because no tangible symptoms could be identified. When her lumbar puncture results came back with an elevated white blood cell count, the doctors were relieved to see that something “physical” was abnormal and they could begin investigating why this was. The link to a “physical” abnormality, not her hallucinations and mood and personality changes, allowed Susannah to continue receiving the treatment that she was and for her case to continue being investigated. I know that the topic of health care is under extreme debate currently, but I do think that something needs to be done in order for those suffering from psychiatric disorders to receive the care that they need.

Now, for our classes analogy challenge: I want to equate the reticular formation to a customer help line for any everyday product. The reticular formation receives and projects signals to alert the body/brain of whatever is being received or transmitted. It is known to play a role in sleep-wake cycles, autonomic nervous system activity, and reflexes (McCaffery, 2008). How is this like a help line? Many people call a help line with various needs: “How do I turn this on?”; “I want a refund!”; “What is the warranty on this?”; “How do I fix this?”. The initial person who answers the phone at the customer service base listens to the questions and transfers them to the proper call line. They receive and transfer information, like the reticular formation receives and transfers information! Voila! The reticular formation is like a customer service help line.

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Source: McCaffery, P. (2008). Chapter 6. The Midbrain, Pons, Medulla and Reticular Formation.  The Neuroscience on the Web Series: CMSD 620 Neuroanatomy of Speech, Swallowing and Language.

One thought on “Money & the Reticular Formation

  1. I thought that this post was immediately interesting and enticing because it brought forth a current issue that has substantial effects on everyone- health care. The author of this blog post emphasized the obvious astounding amount of 1 million dollars for treatment of one person’s illness. In relating to the overall wealth in the world, the vast majority of the population would not be able to afford such a treatment cost, even under dire circumstances. To me, this really articulated the need for improvement in health care and understanding functions of the body in relation to the brain, in order to properly identify and treat all sorts of illnesses. This blog also illuminates the dangers of being falsely diagnosed and the repercussions that can come from an understanding deficit about the brain and the body. As the blog mentions, much knowledge has been discovered based on physical symptoms of the body, but scientists and doctors have yet to figure out all the mechanisms of the brain, which further captivates my interest in learning about it.


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