A few days ago, word spread that a famous Spanish radio and television presenter, called Josep lobató, Shared on Instagram a video with his progress in recovering the speech he lost due to a demyelinating disease.
One can guess the effort that Lobató has to make to pronounce words as simple as “no” and “yes”, which healthy adults can do automatically, without paying any attention to carrying out the chain of movements necessary to. to do.
Naturally, most of the information relating to the presenter’s health is confidential, and not much is known about whether Josep Lobató will be able to fully recover his speech or not. however, this does not mean that the viralization of his video served to show many people his support and solidarity, To which I add.
To all of this … what is demyelinating disease and why can it cause difficulty speaking? Below I give a brief explanation on the subject, but first you need to know what a substance called myelin is.
What is myelin?
Myelin is a substance that, by covering the part of nerve cells that stretches to reach distant places (called axons), makes the interior of the neuron relatively isolated.
And what is it for? Basically, the fact that the myelin sheaths cover the axon making it look like a series of sausages allows the electrical impulses passing through it to go much faster. We can imagine it as if enveloping the channel through which the electricity flows would make it more channeled and only advance where it could, that is, through the axon and not out. Thanks to myelin, these nerve impulses do not spread everywhere, losing their power..
Whether nerve impulses move slower or faster is not just a matter of patience; For the brain to function properly, many neural networks must be synchronized and constantly sending massive amounts of information. This means that there are mental processes that can only be performed if there are a lot of nerve cells running at the expected speed, and if the electrical signals sent by some neurons go much slower, the whole process fails. . This partly explains what demyelinating diseases are.
A demyelinating disease, as the name suggests, is characterized by the generation of a process of demyelination, that is, the destruction of the myelin sheaths which cover part of the neurons.
It doesn’t just mean that because of this disease we progress to do things in a much slower way. Although the speed at which nerve impulses move through neurons seems somewhat quantitative, since there are many different speeds, a significant delay in signal transmission produces qualitatively different consequences than would occur without this delay. That’s why demyelination isn’t just about making us speak more slowly, for example, but it can make us lose the ability to speak.
The other consequences of demyelination
But the effects of demyelinating disease don’t just affect speech. Myelin covers the axons of all types of neurons, whether or not they play a role in the functioning of speech, and therefore the destruction of myelin sheaths can be felt in our ability to perform many types of actions.
Some diseases in which demyelination occurs, for example, are Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, in which symptoms include spasticity, involuntary eye movements or dementia, or leukodystrophies, which are related to the onset of spasms and vision problems, among other illnesses. But the most famous demyelinating disease is multiple sclerosis, which affects all kinds of processes and is very harmful to the entire central and general nervous system.
These diseases are just one more example that in our mental life, not only do neurons matter, but there are other elements that interact with them to make everything work properly.