The Prefrontal Cortex: Home To Critical Thinking
The executive function control centers develop in the prefrontal cortex . The PFC gives us the potential to consider and voluntarily control our thinking, emotional responses, and behavior. It is the reflective “higher brain” compared to the reactive “lower brain”. This prime real estate of the PFC comprises the highest percentage of brain volume in humans, compared to all other animals, which is roughly 20% of our brains.
Animals, compared to humans, are more dependent on their reactive lower brains to survive in their unpredictable environments where it is appropriate that automatic responses not be delayed by complex analysis. As man developed more control of his environment, the luxury of a bigger reflective brain correlated with the evolution of the PFC to its current proportions.
The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to mature. This maturation is a process of neuroplasticity that includes 1) the pruning of unused cells to better provide for the metabolic needs of more frequently used neurons and 2) strengthening the connections in the circuits that are most used. Another aspect of neuroplasticity is the growth of stronger and increased numbers of connections among neurons. Each of the brain’s over one billion neurons holds only a tiny bit of information. It is only when multiple neurons connect through their branches that a memory is stored and retrievable.
Focus On Physical Surroundings
We can extend the mind further into our physical surroundings. The context of being in nature is cognitively effortless because the brain evolved to process this information. This undemanding context frees up space for creative thinking its as though your mind can expand into the surroundings.
It may not be possible to conduct every lesson walking through a forest, but there are environmental changes within our control in the classroom.
Teachers could experiment with music and natural sounds, move students around to work in groups, have them sit upon their tables, get them to personalise their learning space lets try these things out and see how it affects our students expanded minds.
How Does The Brain Think
Our brains canât thoroughly analyze everything. Hereâs how they think through it all anyway.
A roaring sound fills the air and a small object zips through the sky. People in a crowd look up, and three voices shout, âLook! Up in the sky! Itâs a bird!â âItâs a plane!â âItâs Superman!â
Itâs the same object, the same sky. Itâs even the same roar. So why do three people witnessing the same event reach different conclusions?
The answer to this question lies in how our brains are hardwired to think. We experience and interpret the world around us based on what we already know, even though sometimes what we know is flawed.
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So Alabama Should Be More Violent Than Alaska
Right. All things being equal, the key to a good scientific study is that theres a good control. But comparing Alabama and Alaska may not be conclusive, as there are many differences. Throughout much of the year, people in Alaska probably see less light than people in Alabama, for instance. And the presence of colors and light levels in our environment can also have significant effects, both on the emotional aspects of personality and on cognitive functions.
Many of us are aware that not getting enough daylight can cause seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Less familiar is the effect of colors. Even tiny color cues in your environment can affect your behavioral performance. It has been found, for instance, that blue-green-yellow type colors tend to be particularly arousing. Red, as its reputation suggests, tends to promote aggression and avoidance. In one study, researchers put little red or blue cues at the top of a fake exam, and found that the people who had the red cues on the exam did worse.
What Makes A Brain
The human brain makes up, alongside the spinal chord, the central nervous system. The brain itself has three main parts:
- the brainstem, which, like a plants shoot, is elongated, and which connects the rest of the brain with the spinal chord
- the cerebellum, which is located at the back of the brain and which is deeply involved in regulating movement, motor learning, and maintaining equilibrium
- the cerebrum, which is the largest part of our brains and fills up most of the skull it houses the cerebral cortex and other, smaller structures, all of which are variously responsible for conscious thought, decision-making, memory and learning processes, communication, and perception of external and internal stimuli
Brains are made of soft tissue, which includes gray and white matter, containing the nerve cells, non-neuronal cells , and small blood vessels.
They have a high water content as well as a large amount of fat.
The brain of the modern-day human Homo sapiens sapiens is globular, unlike the brains of other early hominids, which were slightly elongated at the back. This shape, research suggests, may have developed in Homo sapiens about 40,00050,000 years ago.
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How Does The Brain Change Over Time
But not everyones mPFC is more active when thinking about the social self. One study examined children when they were age 10, and then had the same kids come back 3 years later when they were 13. These are some really important ages, since lots of kids start going through puberty around then. The study found that as kids become teenagers, especially as their bodies start changing with puberty, the mPFC is more active when thinking about the social self . Another study found that even though the mPFC becomes more active in the teenage years, its activity then decreases, and it is not as active in adulthood . So, knowing what goes on in the brain has helped explain why our self-perceptions are most social during adolescence .
The National Institute Of Neurological Disorders And Stroke
Since its creation by Congress in 1950, the NINDS has grown to become the leading supporter of neurological research in the United States. Most research funded by the NINDS is conducted by scientists in public and private institutions such as universities, medical schools, and hospitals. Government scientists also conduct a wide array of neurological research in the more than 20 laboratories and branches of the NINDS itself. This research ranges from studies on the structure and function of single brain cells to tests of new diagnostic tools and treatments for those with neurological disorders.
For information on other neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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Exercise Can Reorganize The Brain And Boost Your Willpower
A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary. Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks.
Of course, exercise can also make us happier, as weve explored before:
If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF . This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. Thats why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising and eventually happy.
At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. The main purpose of endorphis is this, writes researcher McGovern:
These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.
Executive Function = Critical Thinking
What my field of neurology has called “executive functions” for over 100 years are these highest cognitive processes. These executive functions have been given a variety of less specific names in education terminology such as higher order thinking or critical thinking. These are skillsets beyond those computers can do because they allow for flexible, interpretive, creative, and multidimensional thinking — suitable for current and future challenges and opportunities. Executive functions can be thought of as the skills that would make a corporate executive successful. These include planning, flexibility, tolerance, risk assessment, informed decision-making, reasoning, analysis, and delay of immediate gratification to achieve long-term goals. These executive functions further allow for organizing, sorting, connecting, prioritizing, self-monitoring, self-correcting, self-assessing, abstracting, and focusing.
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Dreams Are Believed To Be A Combination Of Imagination Physiological Factors And Neurological Factors
The limbic system in the mid-brain deals with emotions in both waking and dreaming and includes the amygdala, which is mostly associated with fear and is especially active during dreams. Dreams are proof that your brain is working even when you are sleeping. The average human has about 4-7 dreams per night.
An Adult Brain Weighs About 3 Pounds
The cerebrum makes up 85% of the brains weight, and the brain makes up about 2% of a humans body weight. The texture of the brain is like a firm jelly. The heaviest normal human brain weighed 4.43 pounds. It belonged to the Russian Writer Ivan Turgenev. And the smallest brain, just 2.41 pounds, belonged to a woman.
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Cholesterol Is Key To Learning And Memory
The brain has a higher cholesterol content than any other organ. In fact, about 25% of the bodys cholesterol resides within the brain. The brain is highly dependent on cholesterol, but its cholesterol metabolism is unique. Because the blood-brain barrier prevents brain cells from taking up cholesterol from the blood, the brain must produce its own cholesterol. The brains cholesterol is much more stable than the cholesterol in other organs, but when it breaks down, it is recycled into new cholesterol right in the brain.
The Basics Of Brain Function
Before thinking about the problems that occur in the brain when someone has amental illness, it is helpful to think about how the brain functions normally.The brain is an incredibly complex organ. It makes up only 2 percent of our bodyweight, but it consumes 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and 20 percent ofthe energy we take in. It controls virtually everything we as humans experience,including movement, sensing our environment, regulating our involuntary bodyprocesses such as breathing, and controlling our emotions. Hundreds of thousandsof chemical reactions occur every second in the brain those reactions underliethe thoughts, actions, and behaviors with which we respond to environmentalstimuli. In short, the brain dictates the internal processes and behaviors thatallow us to survive.
Scientists use a variety of imaging techniques to investigate brain structureand function.
Scientists believe that mental illnesses result from problems with thecommunication system in the brain.
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Preparing Students For The Challenges And Opportunities Of The 21st Century
We have the obligation to provide our students with opportunities to learn the required foundational information and procedures through experiences that stimulate their developing neural networks of executive functions. We activate these networks through active learning experiences that involve students’ prefrontal cortex circuits of judgment, critical analysis, induction, deduction, relational thinking with prior knowledge activation, and prediction. These experiences promote creative information processing as students recognize relationships between what they learn and what they already know. This is when neuroplasticity steps in and new connections physically grow between formerly separate memory circuits when they are activated together. This is the physical manifestation of the “neurons that fire together, wire together” phenomenon.
Unless new rote memories are incorporated into larger, relational networks, they remain isolated bits of data in small, unconnected circuits. It is through active mental manipulation with prior knowledge that new information becomes incorporated into the already established neural network of previously acquired related memory.
We Tend To Like People Who Make Mistakes More
Apparently, making mistakes actually makes us more likeable, due to something called the Pratfall Effect.
Kevan Lee recently explained how this works on the Buffer blog:
Those who never make mistakes are perceived as less likeable than those who commit the occasional faux pas. Messing up draws people closer to you, makes you more human. Perfection creates distance and an unattractive air of invincibility. Those of us with flaws win out every time.This theory was tested by psychologist Elliot Aronson. In his test, he asked participants to listen to recordings of people answering a quiz. Select recordings included the sound of the person knocking over a cup of coffee. When participants were asked to rate the quizzers on likability, the coffee-spill group came out on top.
So this is why we tend to dislike people who seem perfect! And now we know that making minor mistakes isnt the worst thing in the worldin fact, it can work in our favor.
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You Conclude The Book With The Words The Brain Is A Biotic Organ Embedded In A Continuum Of Natural Causes And Connections That Together Contribute To Our Biological Minds Bring It Home For Us Alan Explain Why It Is So Important To Understand That We Are Not Only Our Brains
My overarching theme is against narrow thinking. If we want to solve our problems, we shouldnt reduce them to problems of the brain. We need to keep a broad view, which recognizes how the brain is connected both to the body and to the environment and look for solutions wherever they happen to lie. Explaining human behavior in terms of brain function alone stems from a kind of mystical view of the brain and keeps us from advancing in a way that science can encourage us.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Mental Illness In Adults
Scientists estimate that one of every four people is affected by mentalillness either directly or indirectly.
Even if you or a family member has not experienced mental illness directly, it isvery likely that you have known someone who has. Estimates are that at least onein four people is affected by mental illness either directly or indirectly. Consider the followingstatistics to get an idea of just how widespread the effects of mental illnessare in society: , ,
- According to recent estimates, approximately 20 percent of Americans,or about one in five people over the age of 18, suffer from adiagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
- Four of the 10 leading causes of disabilityâmajordepression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, andobsessive-compulsive disorderâare mental illnesses.
- About 3 percent of the population have more than one mental illnessat a time.
- About 5 percent of adults are affected so seriously by mental illnessthat it interferes with their ability to function in society. Thesesevere and persistent mental illnesses include schizophrenia,bipolar disorder, other severe forms of depression, panicdisorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Approximately 20 percent of doctor’s appointments are related toanxiety disorders such as panic attacks.
- Eight million people have depression each year.
- Two million Americans have schizophrenia disorders, and 300,000 newcases are diagnosed each year.
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Brain Lesions And Thinking
We know that lesions to specific parts of the brain damage specific cognitive abilities. This is interesting because it highlights the point that thoughts really are physical entities that both influence and are influenced by the body. Cognitive functions depend on all parts of the brain working properly when these systems become disrupted, thinking can be affected.
Research Shows These Thinking Habits Could Permanently Rewire Your Brain
The conversations you have with yourself have a direct impact on how you feel and how you behave. If your self-talk is filled with doubt, harsh criticism, and catastrophic predictions, you’ll struggle to reach your goals. But you don’t have to let a pessimistic outlook or foreboding inner monologue hold you back. You can train your brain to think differently.
In fact, training your brain to think differently physically changes your brain. That’s why so many therapists use cognitive behavior therapy to help people create long-lasting change.
What the Research Shows
CBT is a well-studied mental health treatment. Therapists who employ this method help people change the unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns that are keeping them stuck. CBT is no quick, feel-good treatment that temporarily masks underlying issues. Studies consistently show that it creates measurable physical changes in the brain. Neuroimaging reveals that CBT modifies neural circuits involved in the regulation of negative emotions.
Studies consistently show that CBT can change dysfunctions of the nervous system. A study published in Translational Psychiatry used MRIs to examine brain changes in people with schizophrenia. After six months of treatment, there was more neural connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex . The changes were long-lasting.
So what types of CBT skills do therapists teach? Here are three ways to train your brain to think differently:
1. Reframe your unhelpful thoughts.
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