Who has not heard “Use It or Lose It”.
Now, what is “It”?
And, is “It” only one thing or a number of integrated elements, each of which are heavily involved in specific mental operations?
Let’s take a quick look:
The brain is composed of 3 “brains” or main sub-structures, each named after the evolutionary moment in which the sub-system is believed to have appeared.
A) The Neocortex is the most recent area, where we perform high-level thinking and complex integrative tasks. Other mammals do have this part too, but in much smaller proportion of the whole brain volume.
B) The Limbic System, or Mammalian Brain, critical for emotions and for memory,
C) The Cerebellum and Stem, or Reptilian Brain, that regulates basic vital variables such as breathing, heartbeat and motor coordination
Now some more details:
B) Emotions are generated in the limbic system, as well as the appetites and urges that (typically) 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.
- Frontal Lobes: or the CEO of the Mind, for sophisticated brain functions such as planning and conceptualizing.
- Parietal: deals with movement, the senses, and some forms of recognition
- Temporal: auditory processes and language
- Occipital: visual processing center
When we exercise our brains, we put our Neurons 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: Peter Furstenberg)