Brain exercise: how is this possible?

brain activity mappping These 3 pic­tures rep­re­sent a sim­pli­fied image of brain activ­i­ty tak­en from right above our heads, with our forehead/ Frontal Lobes at the top of each image. Dark col­or indi­cates most activ­i­ty, light col­or some activ­i­ty. (Basic brain anato­my here).
The 3 images show the brain activ­i­ty hap­pen­ing in 3 dif­fer­ent moments in time when one per­son is doing exact­ly the same thing.Ques­tion: How is that pos­si­ble? how come we don’t see the same acti­va­tion pat­terns, even if we’re talk­ing the same per­son doing the same thing?

Answer: the image to the left shows the per­son learn­ing how to mas­ter the activ­i­ty (jug­gling three balls). The image to the right shows the per­son once he has already mas­tered the activ­i­ty — which explains why there is very lit­tle acti­va­tion in the frontal lobes. This is why learn­ing new things is so impor­tant is we are to tru­ly exer­cise our brains. Doing more of the same is not enough.

Cred­it for image: The Wis­dom Para­dox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Old­er book.


  1. Alvaro on September 22, 2006 at 5:54

    In short, the image to the left shows what hap­pens when the per­son is encoun­ter­ing, doing, that activ­i­ty for the first time. The mid­dle one shows what hap­pens when the per­son is inter­nal­iz­ing the new skill/ knowl­edge, still in tran­si­tion. The image to the right shows what hap­pens when the per­son is doing exact­ly the same task as in the 2 oth­er fig­ures, but that task is already famil­iar, learned, not nov­el anymore.

    You can read a good overview online, by Dr. Syl­west­er, here:

    Some quotes:

    Gold­berg pro­vides con­sid­er­able research evi­dence to argue that the right hemi­sphere (in most humans) is orga­nized prin­ci­pal­ly to process nov­el chal­lenges, and the left hemi­sphere famil­iar rou­tines. For exam­ple we process strange faces prin­ci­pal­ly in our right hemi­sphere, and famil­iar faces in the left. Musi­cal­ly naïve peo­ple process music prin­ci­pal­ly in their right hemi­sphere, trained musi­cians in the left.” 

    He argues that although both hemi­spheres are active in pro­cess­ing most cog­ni­tive func­tions, the rel­a­tive lev­el of involve­ment shifts from the right to the left hemi­sphere over time, and with increased famil­iar­i­ty and com­pe­tence. The explorato­ry right hemi­sphere is thus orga­nized to rapid­ly and cre­ative­ly respond to a nov­el chal­lenge, but the more sta­ble pro­cess­ing sys­tems in the left hemi­sphere even­tu­al­ly trans­form the suc­cess­ful ini­tial respons­es into an effi­cient estab­lished rou­tine that we acti­vate when­ev­er the chal­lenge (or some­thing close to it) reoccurs.”

  2. eleanor on October 24, 2006 at 2:21


  3. Randy on December 17, 2006 at 12:06

    Does “activ­i­ty” equal ener­gy? Do our brains work the hard­est when they are orga­niz­ing new information?

  4. someone on October 28, 2007 at 3:26

    Yay I guessed right =D

  5. miss on January 11, 2008 at 11:03


  6. kapil on May 30, 2008 at 3:34

    ini­tial­ly when a per­son is giv­en a work he will be think­ing how to do that is first image, but when u analysed it it we will be putting our thouts and mind works in why not in dif­fer­ent ways, an many pos­si­ble ways, so mind has dif­fer­ent faces that is sec­ond image and same work is giv­en to the same per­son he will feel­ing not intrest in that and he does so for the sake of doing the work force­bly and he will not think more because he know it before how to do,and final­ly i want say one line taht is “mind has thou­sands of faces when we think in dif­fer­ent ways” this is the proof of this, nice question

  7. bob friend on July 15, 2008 at 11:31

    the per­son could be sleeping.

  8. yoyoda on November 14, 2008 at 8:16

    I think the third image shows proof of the acquired tal­ent, but it’s so easy now the dude is day­dream­ing? Hence the activ­i­ty in the anterior…I dun­no, I day­dream all the time and now I have a big bump back there…har har.

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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