What Are The Main Cognitive Functions
Often times when we talk about superior cognitive functions, were referring to the cognitive skills that we use in order to understand and interact with the world. Although sometimes we study them as separate ideas, we have to remember that cognitive functions are always interrelated and that sometimes they overlap. Well take a look at the main brain functions:
ATTENTION: Attention is a complex mental process that cannot be reduced to one simple definition, one concrete anatomical structure, and that cannot be assessed by one single test as it encompasses diverse processes. To simplify, attention is the cognitive or brain function that we use to select between stimuli that reach our brain simultaneously, both external and internal , that are useful for carrying-out a mental or motor activity. In reality, it is a whole set of processes that vary in complexity and allow us to carry-out the rest of our cognitive functions well. According to Sohlberg and Mateer , attention can be broken into different types depending on its complexity.
FOCUSED ATTENTION: Being alert. The ability to respond to a stimulus.
SUSTAINED ATTENTION: The ability to hold attention during a period of at least 3 minutes. It is was we more commonly call concentration. When we read a book we are concentrating.
2- AREAS THAT MEMORY OPERATES ON:
References memories that may be consciously evoked.
1- Goal setting:
The Old Brain: Wired For Survival
The brain stem is the oldest and innermost region of the brain. Its designed to control the most basic functions of life, including breathing, attention, and motor responses . The brain stem begins where the spinal cord enters the skull and forms the medulla, the area of the brain stem that controls heart rate and breathing. In many cases the medulla alone is sufficient to maintain life animals that have the remainder of their brains above the medulla severed are still able to eat, breathe, and even move. The spherical shape above the medulla is the pons, a structure in the brain stem that helps control the movements of the body, playing a particularly important role in balance and walking.
Running through the medulla and the pons is a long, narrow network of neurons known as the reticular formation. The job of the reticular formation is to filter out some of the stimuli that are coming into the brain from the spinal cord and to relay the remainder of the signals to other areas of the brain. The reticular formation also plays important roles in walking, eating, sexual activity, and sleeping. When electrical stimulation is applied to the reticular formation of an animal, it immediately becomes fully awake, and when the reticular formation is severed from the higher brain regions, the animal falls into a deep coma.
The Motor System And Primary Motor Cortex
The brains motor system is contained mostly in the frontal lobes. It starts with premotor areas, for planning and coordinating complex movements, and ends with the primary motor cortex, where the final output is sent down the spinal cord to cause contraction and movement of specific muscles.
The primary motor cortex on the left side of the brain controls movement of the right side of the body, and vice-versa, the right motor cortex controls movement of the left side of the body.
Different areas of the primary motor cortex connect to, and control, movement of different parts of the body, forming a kind of body map known as the homunculus.
The size of the area on the homunculus determines the level of fine movement control we have with that part of the body. So, for instance, a large proportion of the motor cortex is devoted to our thumb, fingers, mouth and lips, as they are vital for manipulating objects and speech articulation.
The connection from the primary motor cortex to muscles of the body is so important that any damage leads to an impaired ability to move. If someone suffers a stroke, for instance, that causes damage to the primary motor cortex on one side of their brain, they will develop an impaired ability to move on the opposite side of their body.
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See What They Can Do For You
What made me most excited was to be able to help my family, being able to pull the burden out of them that theyve been struggling with. Thats what made me feel the best. Everything else to come, is to come. And were going to live life how we have been, just not going to have to worry about buying the supplies that I need.
- Brain Lobes Overview
Our brains may be what make us who we are. As the seat of consciousness, the home to our memories, and the processing center for all of our experiences, the brain affects every second of our lives. Over time, experiences shape the structure and function of the brain, but one thing remains constant: all vertebrates have a cerebrum. This new part of the brain is a recent evolutionary development, with older structures such as the cerebellum and brain stem predating this complex organ.
Most scientists believe that conscious experience, including a sense of self, occurs in the cerebrum, which means that all animals with a cerebrum have the capacity for consciousness. The size of the brains lobes, the extent of their development, and numerous other factors–including social relationships–all affect the extent to which an animal is consciously aware.
Prefrontal Cortex: Summary And Conclusions
The PFC is a large and complex brain region that is best conceptualized as being located at the highest point of a sensorimotor pyramid, starting with the primary sensory cortices and ending at the primary motor cortex . Highly processed information from sensory association areas converges onto the PFC, which then integrates the information with existing priorities, leading to the construction of adaptive behavioral plans based on this input. Different PFC sectors receive different sensory information and project to different effector areas, but the pattern is consistent. The DLPFC contains its own sensorimotor transfer machinery, while the OFC and mPFC are located in the same sensorimotor circuit .
The magnitude and extended connectivity of the PFC are part of what makes the human brain unique. Since its func tions are so important to human behavior, it is not surprising that multiple psychiatric conditions are associated with abnormalities in the PFC. On the other hand, it is important to note that the PFC is one way-station in a closely coordinated circuit of brain areas. The interactions of the PFC with the striatum, the MD thalamus, and the MTL are essential for proper PFC function. Many consequences of PFC lesions in humans and animals can be replicated by lesions of the striatum, thalamus, or amygdala, or by disconnection of the PFC from these areas.
Kane O Pryor, Robert A Veselis, in, 2006
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Which Frontal Lobe Group Works To Make A Decision
According to the data obtained by William T. Newsomes team, decisions would be made by a single group of neurons located in the frontal lobe, which would integrate the information and then make a single choice, always evaluating the various alternatives.
However, to move forward you have to be able to decide. Say: This is my path, I choose it. However, it is valid to understand something fundamental: not deciding is also a way of deciding it is letting circumstances or others choose for you.
That is why it is advisable to think not only about the decision itself, but also to weigh the consequences and the effects it will have. Do not be afraid of doubts, because they are part of the decision process. Therefore, once the alternatives and their consequences have been evaluated, one must take action, and it is good to remember the phrase of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The whole world turns away when it sees a man passing by who knows where he is going.
Position Of The Frontal Brain Lobe
First of all, the frontal brain lobe is the largest part of our brain. Secondly, as its name implies, it is positioned in the front of the head. More importantly, the frontal lobe is positioned in both hemispheres.
Its anatomical position implies that it spreads from central sulcus to the front pole. This brain part contains four frontal curves. Those are:
- Precentral curve,
- Lower curve .
Most noteworthy, this brain part contains the Broca’s fields. This segment of the frontal brain lobe represents the primary motor cortex. Besides, they contain the Motor Speech Component. The frontal lobe also houses a center for controlling the willing horizontal orientation of a look to the opposite side.
A very important part of the frontal lobe is the prefrontal cortex. It has a role in planning and executing motor activities, taking initiative, motivation, control of emotions, and behavior. The cortical urinary center is located in this lobe. The inflow of blood into the frontal lobe is made possible by the anterior and middle cerebral arteries.
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Which Controls Our Thought Processes And Logic
The cerebral cortex, made up of billions of neurons and glial cells, is divided into the right and left hemispheres and into four lobes. The frontal lobe is primarily responsible for thinking, planning, memory, and judgment. Body parts requiring the most control and dexterity take up the most space in the motor cortex.
Working Memory And Executive Functioning
There is also a connection between working memory and executive functioning. Working memory is a limited capacity system that temporarily maintains and elaborates information and supports human thought processes . It is often viewed as the cornerstone or pivot point for higher order cognitive processes.
Based on Baddleys model, working memory has three basic components: a central executive system and two subsidiary storage systems, the phonological sketch pad and the visuospatial sketch pad. The subsidiary systems are responsible for temporarily storing verbal and nonverbal information, where the central executive system processes information in working memory.
Serino et al. and Purdy state that in the initial stage of problem solving and goal-directed behavior, working memory is crucial. Working memory provides the storage and workspace for information, whereas executive functions perform operation on the information held in working memory so the information may be used efficiently. During working memory tasks that involve goal-directed behavior, the memory system, either verbal or nonverbal, must be strong in order to allow the executive system to determine the most suitable strategy from a set of alternatives, mentally checked and modified if necessary. Purdy, in the text Cognitive Communication Disorders, summarizes the interplay between working memory and executive functions in Figure 1.
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What Is The Prefrontal Cortex And What Does It Do
The prefrontal cortex makes up over 10% of the volume of the brain, and thus is involved in many functionsmore than can be summarized in a short article. There is one category of cognition, however, that the prefrontal cortex is probably best known for: executive function.
The term executive function is defined slightly differently depending on where you find the definition. In general, executive functions focus on controlling short-sighted, reflexive behaviors to take part in things like planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, and acting with long-term goals in mind. They are higher-level cognitive processes that people tend to display greater proficiency in than other animalsthus you could argue they are some of the functions that truly help to make human cognition unique.
Patients who suffer damage confined to the prefrontal cortex often display normal movement, sensory perception, and even intelligence. But they frequently experience deficits in executive functions, along with personality changes, abnormalities in emotional responses, and general difficulty functioning in their daily lives.
The Role Of The Executive System
The role of the executive system is to handle novel situations outside of the domain of some of our more automatic psychological processes. Norman and Shallice outlined five types of situations in which routine activation of behavior would not be sufficient for optimal performance, and where executive functions must kick in.
The executive functions are often evoked when it is necessary to override responses that might otherwise be automatically elicited by stimuli in the external environment. For example, when being presented with a potentially rewarding stimulus, such as a piece of pie, a person might have the automatic response to take a bite. However, where such a response conflicts with internal plans , the executive functions might engage and inhibit the response.
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Getting To Know Your Brain: Cerebellum
In Latin, cerebellum actually means little brain however, its function is anything but. This area of the brain controls important body functions such as balance, coordination, posture, and motor learning.Read More
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More Details About The Lobes Of The Brain
The temporal lobes are on either side of the brain, nearest to the ears. Their main roles involve memory processing, hearing and language.
Both temporal lobes store general knowledge. General knowledge is different from the types of memory that relate to day-to-day experiences. The left temporal lobe helps to understand language, and usually stores facts and the meanings of words. The right temporal lobe deals with visual information, such as recognising familiar objects and faces.
Within each temporal lobe is a region called the hippocampus, which processes memories to allow them to be stored and found when needed. Damage to the hippocampus makes it difficult to learn new things. The hippocampus also sends important information to be stored in other parts of the cerebral cortex. It is important for memory of events and experiences .
The temporal lobes also help to understand what is being heard. Damage to the temporal lobes, particularly to an area called the auditory cortex, can make it more difficult for the hippocampus to form memories of what has just been heard.
Alzheimers disease often starts in and around the hippocampus, before it spreads to other parts of the brain. This is why one of the first symptoms many people notice is memory loss.
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The Limbic System Or Emotional Center
The list of structures that make up the limbic system are not agreed upon.
Four of the main regions of the limbic systems include:
- The amygdala
- Regions of the limbic cortex
- The septal area
These structures relay between the limbic system and the hypothalamus, thalamus, and cerebral cortex. The hippocampus is important in memory and learning. While the limbic system itself is central in the control of emotional responses.
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What Happens When The Cerebellum Is Damaged
When the cerebellum is injured, some of its functions can be compromised and cause motor problems. There may be a loss of the ability to precisely control the direction, force, speed and amplitude of movements, as well as the ability to adapt output patterns to changing conditions.
The deficits can be produced suddenly by injury, or gradually by degeneration of the cerebellum. The cerebellar syndrome can be caused by injury to the cerebellum or the cerebellar pathways.
Organ damage can lead to two different symptomatic syndromes: vermian syndrome with alterations in static and gait, and cerebellar hemispheric syndrome with alterations in movement coordination.
The lesion of the afferent pathways produces an archicerebellar syndrome, and that of the efferent pathways is manifested by a neocerebellar syndrome.
A person with a cerebellar injury may find it difficult to maintain a seasonal posture , and trying to do so leads to tremors.
It is also common to detect abnormalities in balance, gait, speech and even in the control of eye movements. So movements of all kinds can be affected. It is difficult for those who suffer from it to learn new motor sequences.
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What Does The Frontal Lobe Do
The frontal lobe is the slowest part of the brain to mature, continuing to create and prune neural connections until a persons mid-twenties. This means that brain damage early in life renders the frontal lobe particularly vulnerable, potentially affecting behavior and cognition forever.
The frontal lobe is involved in a wide range of higher cognitive functions. Although all mammals have a frontal lobe, highly social mammals, such as dolphins and primates, tend to have more developed frontal lobes. This suggests that our social interactions may play a key role in the development of intelligence, and that the brain must devote significant resources to responding to the demands of social interactions. Humans have larger and more developed frontal lobes than any other animal.
Some of the many functions of the frontal lobe include:
Get To Know The Parts Of Your Brain
That three-pound, fatty, squishy, and oddly-shaped blob in your head is truly amazing. Its what makes you, you. Its responsible for your personality and how we sense the world. It lets you relive memories over and over again. It gives you the capacity for language, art, and moral judgments. Your movements, day in and day out are your brains responsibility. That quick scratch of the nose to relieve a pesky itch, or standing up from your couch to stretchyou can thank your brain for that.
But understanding this organ isnt so easy. There are many complex areas that are responsible for an array of functions you take for granted every day. Lets take a look at the primary components and their primary responsibilities of the human brain.
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