The C. elegans worm is a favorite of cellular researchers, paradoxically, because it is at once simple and complex. It has a functioning nervous system, but the worm itself is made up of less than 1000 cells, the lineage of which has been mapped for each one. That means researchers know what to expect out of just about every individual part of the animal down to the cellular level. So when they discovered that just two neurons were responsible for the other 957 cells' behavior in stress situations, they were quite surprised. By genetically shutting down the heat-sensing ability of those neurons, they found that no other cell subsequently responded to temperature stresses.
In more complicated organisms then, neurons may be responsible for coordinating local networks of cells to respond to stress, which if true, could help us better understand diseases which affect those pathways.
It would seem that this could also be the cause or pathways for the development of diseases like Lou Gehrigs disease. Nearly all the military people from the First Gulf War who complain of the symptoms called "Gulf War Syndrome" seem to all have a class of symptoms that could be the precursor develoments of Lou Gehrigs disease. Because the very deep sleep below the levels of brain wave activity associated with dream states is needed for the least active periods of brain neuron activity so that mainenance of the nerve cell very complex neurotransmitter manufacturing sites can be performed when message nerve impulse traffic is at a minimum during this deep sleeping state where you don't even dream. Your body needs this sleep state for complete rest and just a few minutes during every sleep period is needed to let you feel totally satisfied and alive the next day. If you don't get enough of this kind of deep sleep state, you are lethargic, exhausted even when you wake up in the morning, depressed and even become demented and a host of other mental disorders, including actual damage to your synaptic junctions such as Lou Gehrigs disease. There are more than one hundred neurotransmitters, all with their individual molecular sizes and unique shapes of the molecules that form the unique chemical codings of each one. The particular patterns of neurotransmitters are what carries the codes of pleasure or other sensory data that our brains interpret as such in all the smallest nuances of sensation there can be. Lack of enough of this dreamless state of sleep is common among soldiers or others in similar high stress environments such as what Dr. Steven Hawking did to himself during his youth in driving himself over and above others working in study to be able to get where he is now as the head of science at Cambridge in the UK. There are possibly other diseases similar to Lou Gehrigs stemming from the same sorts of sleep disorder causes along with other environmental factors, some of which are under our concious control and some of which are not. Research should focus on what we can control and that we cannot control to develop treatments to prevent Lou Gehrigs, possibly even developing stem cell treatments to cure the disease in people like Dr. Hawking and enable him to begin walking and speaking in his own voice again and to provide effective treatments for all those soldiers from the First Gulf War that would work.