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Lipid Classification

Lipids; structure, function and terms used to discuss them.

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Big Fat Brains

How Lipids and Brains Relate

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You've seen people use the word “fat” as if it were an enemy. Although in some ways it can be, truth be told, fats can also be our friends. Fats are lipids, which are necessary for energy storage, cell membrane construction, and not to mention, the function of our brains.

Recall that lipids are different types of fat-like substances, such as fats and oils that you often consume. There are many different types of lipids, like fatty acids and phospholipids. There are two types of fatty acids:  saturated and unsaturated.

Now let’s explore how lipids play their part in the brain.

The brain contains neurons (brain cells), which communicate by means of impulses. The axons are the tail ends of the neurons, which send the impulses. Each axon is covered by the myelin sheath, a type of fatty-substance that insulates the neurons. Can you figure out why it is important and how it relates to lipids?

Creative Applications

What is the primary function of myelin?

Why is the myelin sheath important to the brain?

Glial cells, or neuroglia, help make up the myelin. What other purposes do they serve in the brain?

In general terms, what types of substances compose the myelin? Can you figure out the proportions of each?

Can you find which types of lipids are involved in the myelin sheath?

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