It is the fatty tissue located between the gray matter in the brain’s nerve fibres (axons). Basically, gray matter covers the nerve fibres and white matter connects one nerve fibre to another. Metaphorically, gray matter can be thought as the computer and white matter is the cables and wires that connect the computers.
These ‘wires’ are coated in myelin, an electric insulation that helps the neurons send signals to one another. When the myelin degenerates, there are problems that occur within the brain and therefore are classified as ‘demyelinating diseases’.
It is a chronic nervous disorder where the immune system attacks the nervous system which results in demyelination (loss of myelin fibres) which means that the quick and efficient transmission of nerve impulses is weakened and damaged.
The average 20 year old male has 176,000 km worth of myelinated fibres and the average 20 year old female has 149,000 km. On average, you lose 10% of the length every decade. (Decline due to loss of thinner fibres).
Most people diagnosed with MS have a relapsing form of MS which can slowly lead to disability. Others with MS may only have a few, mild relapses and only have minor neurological disturbances over time.
MS is not fatal; most people with newly diagnosed MS live a normal life and a nearly normal lifespan.
Unfortunately, since there is no known cure everyone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will eventually forget everything they have ever known. In the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients will have trouble putting words together and performing either the simplest of tasks.
Ultimately people diagnosed with this disease will die, but not of the disease itself.
Treatment for schizophrenia is a quite controversial topic. As of now the most common and accepted treatment is a medical path which includes the use of a pill called Risperidome. Much scientific and psychological research is still ongoing on the topic of schizophrenia.
In the case of this disorder, a shortage of white matter causes less communication among the brain. This leads to symptoms of: “Intrusive thoughts” which leads to anxiety. More commonly known, constant physical acts or even mental “personal rituals” are repeated to try and offset the anxiety. In extreme cases people with OCD cannot go on with their day because they believe life cannot go on with the imbalance that they see in place.
Many people, including celebrities are well documented with their lives coping with OCD. As well many people are constantly trying to bring attention to it so that therapy for OCD’s effects can be covered by medical insurance.
A very humane approach is taken to treating OCD with Behavioural Therapy as well as Cognitive Therapy. Medication is also another choice. When it comes to the medication, pills called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are used.
Depression : Although not strongly associated with white matter, it has been discovered that an increase of white matter in the elderly can lead to late-life depression. Research shows that this is partly due to melanin genes being abnormal as well.