Use It or Lose It: What is the “It”?

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.

Theropod 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.


TheropodA) The Neo­cor­tex is com­posed of

  • 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

In action

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)



  1. Elona on September 13, 2006 at 7:40

    Great post. You have made a very com­plex top­ic very acces­si­ble. I teach a unit on the teenage brain to my grade nine stu­dents in my Learn­ing Strate­gies Class. I think they will “get it.” more eas­i­ly after view­ing this. I tell them they have to use all parts of their brain all the time, not just the video, tv watch­ing part. So I have them do all kinds of dif­fer­ent puz­zles to keep their brain “strong”.

  2. Alvaro on September 16, 2006 at 9:30

    Very good take-away. Yes, we need nov­el­ty and vari­ety to exer­cise our brains. I see that once we under­stand the basics of brain anato­my and func­tion­ing, the implca­tions are clear.

    Good luck, and please let me know how the exper­i­ment goes.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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