Top 10 Things Your Brain Does and You Probably Didn’t Know About


Most of the time, we are so used to our brain func­tion­ing smooth­ly and auto­mat­i­cal­ly that we don’t take a lot of time to think about what is going on under­neath. Walk­ing, eat­ing, dis­cussing a book…all of these things seem very nat­ur­al and easy, but in truth, each and every one is done through a series of func­tions that the brain per­forms. In order to real­ly under­stand the abil­i­ties of the brain, as well as the lim­i­ta­tions, you can try these brain teasers and games…but it is also impor­tant to look at some of the things you prob­a­bly did­n’t know about:

1 — Work­ing Memory

Think about math class for a moment. Whether you love math, or hate it, you def­i­nite­ly will be famil­iar with work­ing out a prob­lem in your head. When your brain holds mul­ti­ple units of infor­ma­tion and manip­u­lates them to actu­al­ly solve that prob­lem in your head, you are using a men­tal capac­i­ty known as work­ing mem­o­ry. In oth­er words, work­ing mem­o­ry is a way to not only remem­ber some­thing you already knew, like the for­mu­la to solve the math prob­lem, but to inter­pret and apply infor­ma­tion “real time” to solve the prob­lem by using that for­mu­la, so it is a crit­i­cal ingre­di­ent for learn­ing and for decision-making.

2 — Reg­u­late Emotions

If you are like many of us, at some point or anoth­er, you need to work as a team. How­ev­er, at times, you might find that  a mem­ber of your team is doing some­thing that you don’t agree with and it makes you angry. Are you going to release the full wrath of this anger onto this per­son? No, hope­ful­ly you won’t thanks to the brain func­tion known as emo­tion­al self regulation…as long as you have exer­cised this “men­tal mus­cle” enough and it’s ready for you to flex.

3 — Inter­pret Sen­so­ry Information

When you smell a sweet, smoky, but­tery scent, do you rec­og­nize it as choco­late? Could you rec­og­nize that you are pet­ting a cat ver­sus a dog? In both cas­es, yes, you will and this is because your brain is able  to inter­pret sen­so­ry information.

4 — The­o­ry of Mind

How would you feel if your friend sud­den­ly announced their pro­mo­tion at work? You would prob­a­bly be extreme­ly hap­py and be able to imag­ine exact­ly what they were think­ing. This is due to the brain func­tion known as the­o­ry of mind mean­ing you have insight into oth­er peo­ple’s worlds.

5 — Sequencing

Per­haps you have a project you need to com­plete for work. Before you start, you will need to fig­ure out what step to take first, then the rest of the steps in sequence. The abil­i­ty of your brain to do this, and put steps in order from most to least impor­tant is known as sequencing.

6- Inhi­bi­tion

Are you on a diet? How do you keep your­self from eat­ing a choco­late bar? Actu­al­ly, your brain does it for you with a func­tion known as inhibition.

7 — Attention

Imag­ine being on the beach. There are peo­ple around you, chil­dren play­ing and laugh­ing, the waves beat­ing against the shore. Yet, you are still able to block all of that out and focus your atten­tion on the book you are read­ing. This is using anoth­er brain func­tion known as atten­tion. This is the abil­i­ty to focus on a cer­tain thought, action or deeds.

8 — Work­ing Mem­o­ry vs. Long Term Memory

When you can recall a phone num­ber that you have just been giv­en and remem­ber what you were doing three sum­mers ago, you might think you are sim­ply using your mem­o­ry, but in truth, you are using two dif­fer­ent types of mem­o­ry. Remem­ber­ing the new phone num­ber uses work­ing mem­o­ry, which is lim­it­ed stor­age that you will soon for­get and remem­ber­ing your sum­mer from years ago is using long term mem­o­ry, which is prac­ti­cal­ly unlimited.

9 — Motor Function

When you walk down the street, type on a com­put­er or shake a hand, you are using the motor func­tion of your brain. This is the abil­i­ty for us to move our bod­ies and manip­u­late objects.

10 — Visu­al and Spa­tial Processing

Last but not least. When you see a large M in the cor­ner of a major city, you rec­og­nize that as the sign for a metro stop, right? This is because your brain is using its visu­al abilities.

As you can see, we need much more than “mem­o­ry” or “intel­li­gence” in order to enjoy our lives, so it is impor­tant to learn how to enhance and main­tain a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one. The brain is work­ing con­stant­ly –even though we don’t real­ize it all the time– and you are now aware that there are many impor­tant func­tions that occur that you prob­a­bly did­n’t know about. What you do with this knowl­edge now is up to you.

SharpBrainsGuide_3D– This is an adapt­ed excerpt from the book “The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age” (April 2013; 284 pages), rec­om­mend­ed by Dr. Peter White­house, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­rol­ogy at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty as “… a good mod­el for all sharp minds to fol­low and ben­e­fit from.”

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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