Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Four Regions of the Thinking Brain Made Simple - Part One

Whenever I talk about the weird behavior of teenagers, which is caused in large part by changes in the teen brain, I'm talking about the pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that facilitates critical judgment, intuition, creativity, logic, decision-making, planning and organizing. It's what scientists have referred to as the "executive" part of the brain. Humans have many times more pre-frontal cortex than any other mammal. Birds, fish and reptiles have none. It's one of the characteristics of the human brain that makes us highly intelligent, and special.

But it's hard to understand the role of the pre-frontal cortex with understanding how it fits into the big picture of the rest of the cortex - the thin outer layer of the brain.

I encourage you to stick with me. I'm going to make this simple...

Learning how the brain works is fascinating. With hundreds of interconnected areas and components, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Many parts may contribute to a single function such as emotion or memory; and interactions take place hundreds of times per second.

In the past, the brain has been difficult to study. Unlike other organs, when a part of the brain is damaged or destroyed, it changes who you are. For this reason, scientists only rarely got to examine a living brain. Components of the brain are surrounded by other components and are hard to reach, even during surgery. The brains of deceased persons are less useful to research because they no longer function. The brains of other mammals may be similar to the human brain, but they have important differences, and there are ethical limitations to studying animal brains.

Formal brain research, which has been going on for about 150 years, began as the study of the effects of brain injury. Recent advances in sensing technology and computers have created breakthroughs. We can now watch the brain in action without physically probing into the brain. This has led to advances in medicine and psychology. The current scientific consensus about how the brain works is widely published and discussed.

The part of the brain that produces the most striking differences in personality is the cortex, the outermost layer of brain matter. This is the thinking part of the brain, where perception, language, learning, planning, problem solving and most high-level functions are processed. So this is the part of the brain we'll look at right now.

Both your cortex and the thinking programs you acquire over a lifetime influence the thought patterns and behavior patterns we call “personality.” Since our brains aren’t exactly alike and we don’t all learn the same things, we think differently, act differently and have different personalities. In this regard, every human being is completely unique.

Scientists have learned that stored information and thinking programs reside in different regions of the cortex. Functionally, there are four basic regions, each of which produces a different kind of information in its own special way. The four regions are:
  • Left-front
  • Left-back
  • Right-front
  • Right-back
In order to understand how these four regions contribute to your thinking and personality, we must first check out the basic differences between the left and right parts of the cortex, along with the basic differences between front and back parts of the cortex.

You've heard about "left-brain" and "right-brain." In my next post, I'll first talk about "front-brain" and "back-brain" differences.

I know. It's "brain science." But stick with me. In Part Two you get the plain-English translation....

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating - and useful - stuff. Thanks.