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Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire together Wire together

Who has not heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? Last week I gave a talk at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, and one of the areas attendants seemed to enjoy the most was learning about what our brains are and how they work, peaking into the “black box” of our minds. Without understanding at least the basics, how can we make good decisions about our own brain health and fitness?

Let’s review at a glance:

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The brain is composed of 3 main sub-systems

The brain is composed of 3 “brains” or main sub-systems, each named after the evolutionary moment in which the sub-system is believed to have appeared.Theropod

A) Neocortex, or Human Brain, is the most recent area, where we perform high-level thinking and complex integrative tasks. Other mammals do have this part too, but in smaller proportion of the whole brain volume. This is where we have our right and left hemispheres.

B) Limbic System, or Mammalian Brain, critical for emotions and for memory,

C) Cerebellum and Stem, or Reptilian Brain, that regulates basic vital variables such as breathing, heartbeat and motor coordination (Credit for pic: Arnold Keyserling and R.C.L.)

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More about the Limbic System

TheropodEmotions are generated here, as well as the appetites and urges that help us survive.

For instance, the amygdala gets triggered to prepare us to deal with a threatening situation, resulting in our feeling of fear.

The hippocampus is key in the formation of memory. (Credit for pic.: Sandhills College)

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More about the Neocortex

The Neocortex is composed of:

  • Frontal Lobes: or the CEO of the Brain, for sophisticated brain functions such as planning and conceptualizing.
  • Parietal lobes: Dealing with movement, the senses, and some forms of recognitionTheropod
  • Temporal lobes: Auditory processes and language
  • Occipital: Visual processing center

(credit for pic: Morphonix)

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When we exercise our brains

When we exercise our brains, we put our neurons and connections between neurons in action.

In action“Cells that fire together wire together” means that synapses-unions between neurons- get solidified the more often the respective neurons “talk” to each other. (Credit for pic.: Peter Furstenberg)

Given the diversity of functions outlined above, it is clear that different activities are going to activate different brain areas, which scientists now know thanks to neuroimaging techniques.

There is no one magic bullet that is best (either crosswords puzzles, or computer-based programs, or physical exercise): We do need a variety of mental stimulation or “brain exercises” to maintain the whole brain healthy.

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Read more about the brain and brain skills/cognitive abilities:

Read more about how to keep the brain sharp:

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10 Responses

  1. Wilson Teh says:

    This is a informative site for brain related knowledge. Great job !

    Wilson Teh

  2. Alvaro says:

    Glad you enjoy it, Wilson!

  3. […] Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire together Wire together: I spoke at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, where we explored some of the basic concepts we should all know about how our brains and mind work. […]

  4. […] Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire together Wire together (Alvaro Fernandez) […]

  5. […] Use It or lose It, and cells that fire together wire together – Neuronal connections take work. […]

  6. […] Try picturing in your mind, as you read this, all her different brain areas that are getting needed stimulation through her Namibia experience. […]

  7. […] 21 December, 2007 by Lars 1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses. […]

  8. Monologster says:

    […] 1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses. […]

  9. […] 基础认知将更好的使你拥有一个健康发达的大脑,这个拥有成千上万的神经元和神经键连接起来的密集“森林”。 […]

  10. […] There are many details about how the limbic system (one of the three main areas of the brain) contributes to health and healing through positive emotions: Vaillant’s brain-based examples include oxytocin for Love, endorphins for Compassion, parasympathetic nervous system for lowered cardiac risk for Forgiveness, and others. […]

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