Get Inside Your Head: How the Human Brain Works

Get Inside Your Head: How the Human Brain Works

The human brain is the most complex part of our body. In this article, we'll explore how the brain operates and get a better understanding on why it is such an important part of the human body.

Buckle up and activate your hippocampus (you'll find out later) because we're about to engage in some neuroscience!


1. The anatomy of the brain

The different parts of the brain and their functions

As you probably already know, the brain is composed of three main parts: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem.

1. Cerebrum: The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain (taking up about two-thirds of the entire organ). This part is responsible for thinking, feeling, learning, memory, and controlling our voluntary movements.

The cerebrum is divided into two halves called hemispheres: the left and right hemispheres, which are connected by a bundle of fibers known as the corpus callosum. The left hemisphere of the brain is considered "the nerdy one," all about logic, language, and analysis. It's the one that pays attention in math class and can recite the dictionary backwards. Meanwhile, the right hemisphere of the brain is "the artistic one," it's responsible for our creativity, intuition, and emotion. It's the one that excels in art class and can play the guitar like a rockstar. Generally, each hemisphere of our brain controls its respective opposite side of the body; meaning the left hemisphere is dominant for right-handed individuals and controls the right side of the body, while the right hemisphere is dominant for left-handed individuals and controls the left side of the body.

The brain is furthermore divided into four different lobes: the temporal, occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes.

The frontal lobe is in charge of all things decision-making, problem-solving, and attention-spanning. Think of it as your bossy, but necessary, friend who keeps you on track when you’re about to go off the rails.

The parietal lobe is all about the five senses. Touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound all get processed here. So, the next time you get "LSS," you can thank (or blame) your parietal lobe for being too good at processing sound.

Now, the one involved in the control of memory and language is the temporal lobe. So, if you’re struggling to remember where you put your keys (again), or you can’t seem to find the right words to say (also, again), that's your temporal lobe being a little forgetful and tongue-tied.

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve got the occipital lobe. This one’s all about vision. It’s responsible for processing all the visual information that comes your way.

Now, going back, what exactly does the cerebrum do? Well, it's in charge of all our conscious activities, from language and perception to planning and decision-making. It also plays a crucial role in our motor skills, allowing us to move our bodies with precision and finesse. And let's not forget about emotions—the cerebrum is responsible for our feelings and moods, whether we're happy, sad, or somewhere in between.

But wait, there's more! The cerebrum also houses the cerebral cortex, a thin layer of cells that's responsible for higher-level thinking, such as reasoning, problem-solving, and creativity. And if that's not impressive enough, the cerebrum is also where our memories are stored, allowing us to recall everything—from our first kiss to our grandma's secret recipe for apple pie.

2. Cerebellum: Considered "the unsung hero of the brain," it's like the stagehand of a theater production—always working behind the scenes (it is located at the back of the brain) and crucial to the show's success.

The cerebellum is responsible for coordinating movement and maintaining balance. The cerebellum also plays a role in motor learning, meaning it helps you develop new skills like playing an instrument or hitting a home run. Without the cerebellum, we'd all be stumbling around like newborn deer. So, next time you successfully navigate a flight of stairs without tripping, give a little nod of appreciation to your cerebellum. It's working hard to keep you on your feet.

3. Brainstem: The brainstem is located at the base of the brain and connects the human brain and spinal cord. It's like the traffic cop of your nervous system. You know, the one who directs all the cars where to go and keeps everything moving smoothly (or as smoothly as possible during rush hour). But the brainstem does more than just facilitate nerve traffic. It's the hub of your body's most basic involuntary functions, like breathing, heart rate, and digestion.

And then, of course, there are also these other parts of the brain.

4. Thalamus: Located just above the brainstem, this acts as a relay station for sensory information. It's like having a bouncer deep within the brain who decides who gets in and who doesn't.  It receives signals from our senses and sends them to the appropriate area of the brain for processing.

Interconnected with the thalamus is the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are responsible for controlling voluntary movements and regulating motor behavior. The thalamus sends sensory information to the basal ganglia, which then helps to modulate and refine motor responses. The basal ganglia also send feedback, which helps to adjust sensory processing based on motor output. In short, these two work together to integrate sensory information with motor output, allowing us to move and interact with the world around us.

5. Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating your body's internal environment. It controls your hunger, thirst, body temperature, and sleep cycles.

It's also in charge of releasing hormones that control the pituitary gland, which in turn controls all the other glands in the body.

6. Hippocampus: The hippocampus is small but mighty, and it is responsible for storing and retrieving memories. It is located in the temporal lobe of the brain and is responsible for forming new memories and learning.

The hippocampus is also involved in spatial navigation, helping you find your way around your environment.

But that's not all! Studies have shown that it may also be involved in the formation of new neurons, which means it's basically the fountain of youth for your brain.

7. Amygdala: The amygdala is also located in the temporal lobe of the brain, and is responsible for processing and regulating our emotions, especially fear.

It's the reason you jump when you hear a loud noise or feel a sense of fear when faced with a dangerous situation.


The role of neurons, glial cells, and neurotransmitters

Neurons are the cells responsible for transmitting information throughout the brain and nervous system. They have a unique structure consisting of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. Dendrites receive signals from other neurons, while the axon transmits signals to other neurons or organs.

Glial cells, on the other hand, are the support cells of the brain. They help to maintain the neuron's environment, provide nutrients, and remove waste products. Glial cells also play a role in forming the myelin sheath, which is essential for the proper functioning of neurons.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between neurons. They are essential for communication between different parts of the brain and are involved in various functions, including mood, sleep, memory, and movement. Some of the most well-known neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.

When a neuron fires, it releases neurotransmitters into the tiny space between two neurons called the synapse. The neurotransmitters then bind to receptors on the receiving neuron, either exciting or inhibiting its activity.

Overall, the communication between neurons, glial cells, and neurotransmitters is crucial for the proper functioning of the brain. By understanding the role of these components, we can gain a better understanding of how the brain works and how we can promote its health and well-being.


2. Brain operations

How the brain processes information

How the brain processes information is one of life's great mysteries. But don't worry, as mentioned, this is what we'll try to figure out.

You see, the brain is like a giant filing cabinet, constantly receiving and sorting through information. It's the ultimate multitasker, able to process everything from the smell of freshly baked cookies to the sound of your neighbor's dog barking. 

Now, you may be thinking, "but HOW does it all work?"

When information enters our brain, it first goes through the sensory organs, like our eyes or ears. From there, it's sent to the thalamus, which sends the information to the appropriate part of the brain for processing, and then the brain sends out electrical signals to the rest of your body.

But wait, it's not that simple! The brain doesn't just process information in a linear fashion. It's more like a web of interconnected pathways, with different parts of the brain communicating and working together. It's like a choir, every member of the choir has a role to play and even though they have different functions, they are equally important in creating a beautiful performance.

The ability of the brain to change and adapt

The human brain is a magnificent organ that constantly amazes scientists and researchers with its versatility and adaptability. It's like a chameleon, changing and adapting to its environment, constantly perusing information from the outside world. This ability to change and adapt is called neuroplasticity, and it's what makes the human brain so unique.

Just like a muscle, the brain needs exercise to stay sharp and healthy. It's important to challenge your brain and learn new things to keep it from getting stagnant. This could mean learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or even learning to juggle. The possibilities are endless!

One of the most fascinating examples of neuroplasticity is the case of blind people who develop heightened senses in other areas, such as hearing and touch. Their brains have adapted to compensate for the lack of sight, and they are able to navigate the world just as well as those with sight.

Neuroplasticity also plays a crucial role in recovery from brain injury. The brain is able to rewire itself and create new neural pathways to compensate for damaged areas. This means that even after a devastating injury, there is always hope for recovery and rehabilitation.

In conclusion, the ability of the brain to change and adapt is truly remarkable. It's a reminder that we are capable of incredible things, and that our brains are capable of much more than we give them credit for. So go ahead and challenge your brain, learn something new, and watch as it continues to evolve and grow. Who knows what amazing things you'll be capable of in the future!

The science behind learning and memory

First of all, let's start with a quick biology lesson. Our brain contains billions of neurons (nerve cells). These neurons communicate with each other through synapses (tiny gaps between them). When we learn something new, our brain creates new pathways between these neurons, which makes it easier for us to recall the information later on.

But here's the kicker: repetition is key. The more we repeat something, the stronger the connections between our brain cells become. That's why cramming for a test the night before is not the best strategy for long-term memory retention.

Another important factor in learning and memory is attention. If you're not paying attention to something, your brain isn't going to bother creating those new pathways we talked about earlier. So, put down your phone, turn off the TV, and focus.

And finally, let's talk about sleep. Did you know that getting enough sleep is crucial for memory consolidation? That's right, your brain needs some shut-eye to solidify those new connections and make them stick.

So, if you want to help your brain achieve maximum retention, remember these three things: repetition, focus, and sleep. (You're welcome.)


3. The mysteries of the unconscious mind

The role of the unconscious mind in decision-making

When it comes to decision-making, we often like to think that we are in complete control of the process. But let's be honest, most of the time we're just winging it. And that's where the unconscious mind comes in. It's the mysterious force that's always lurking beneath the surface, quietly influencing our choices without us even realizing it. But don't worry, it's not as sinister as it sounds. In fact, our unconscious mind is actually a pretty helpful assistant when it comes to making decisions.

You see, our brains are wired to take shortcuts. It's simply too overwhelming to process every piece of information that comes our way, so we rely on heuristics and biases to help us make sense of the world. And that's where the unconscious mind comes in. It sifts through all the noise and presents us with a few options that it thinks are the best. It's like having our own personal decision-making algorithm running in the background.

But of course, the unconscious mind isn't perfect. It can be swayed by all sorts of things, from our emotions to our personal biases. That's why it's important to be aware of its influence on our decisions. By taking a step back and examining our choices, we can better understand why we made them and how we can improve our decision-making process.

So next time you're faced with a tough decision, remember that your unconscious mind is there to help. But don't forget to give it a little nudge in the right direction. After all, it's just a witty assistant, not a mind reader.

The science behind dreams and subconscious thoughts

Ah, dreams—the mysterious scenarios that play out in our minds while we sleep. We've all experienced them, whether it's flying through the air or being chased by giant, mutant squirrels. But have you ever wondered what exactly causes these wild and vivid imaginings? Well, my dear reader, it all comes down to the science behind our subconscious thoughts.

You see, when we sleep, our brains don't simply shut off. In fact, they're quite active, even if we don't realize it. During the rapid eye movement (or REM) stage of sleep, our brains are busy processing all the information we've taken in throughout the day, from the mundane to the monumental. And it's during this stage that our dreams occur.

But why do we dream such seemingly random and bizarre things? The answer lies in our subconscious thoughts. Our minds are constantly processing and sorting through our thoughts and emotions, even when we're not consciously aware of it. And sometimes, those thoughts and emotions find their way into our dreams in the most unexpected ways.

So, the next time you find yourself dreaming about being chased by a giant, mutant squirrel, don't be too alarmed. It's simply your subconscious mind processing your deep-seated fear of rodents. And who knows, maybe one day, science will even be able to decode our dreams and help us better understand ourselves.