The Brain Stem Relays Signals Between The Brain And Spinal Cord And Manages Basic Involuntary Functions
The brain stem connects the spinal cord to the higher-thinking centers of the brain. It consists of three structures: the medulla oblongata, the pons, and the midbrain. The medulla oblongata is continuous with the spinal cord and connects to the pons above. Both the medulla and the pons are considered part of the hindbrain. The midbrain, or mesencephalon, connects the pons to the diencephalon and forebrain. Besides relaying sensory and motor signals, the structures of the brain stem direct involuntary functions. The pons helps control breathing rhythms. The medulla handles respiration, digestion, and circulation, and reflexes such as swallowing, coughing, and sneezing. The midbrain contributes to motor control, vision, and hearing, as well as vision- and hearing-related reflexes.
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Becoming Mindful Of The Brain And Its Functions
The human brain is the epicenter of the central nervous system, which controls the bodys most vital tasks. Everything from movement of limbs and facial features to regulating bodily functions like breathing is sent as a message from some part of the brain.
Comprised of billions of nerve cells that communicate with the body through the spinal cord, the brain is a complicated organ separated into several sections and subsections. Below is a breakdown of the parts of the brain, and how they contribute to the bodys functions and abilities.
Also called the cortex, the cerebrum makes up the largest part of the brain. It is associated with higher functions, such as cognitive thoughts and actions. There are four sections of the cerebrum , each of which contributes to the body differently. The four lobes and their functions are as follows:
The cerebellum resembles a smaller version of the cortex, because of its densely wrinkled appearance and its halved parts. It is responsible for several physical tasks, like movement, balance, posture and coordination. Although smaller in size, the cerebellum contains more neurons than the entire brain. It is critical for accomplishing day-to-day tasks as simple as walking or sitting down.
The Limbic System
The Brain Stem
There are three parts of the brain stem: the midbrain, the pons and the medulla. Below is an explanation of what each part does in relation to the brain system:
From Flies To Rodents
A few years later, Hardt found something similar in rats. He was investigating what happens at the synapses of neurons that are involved in long-term memory storage. Researchers know that memories are encoded in the mammalian brain when the strength of the connection between neurons increases. That connection strength is determined by the amount of a particular type of receptor found at the synapse. Known as AMPA receptors, the presence of these structures must be maintained for a memory to remain intact. The problem, Hardt says, is that none of these receptors are stable. They are moved in and out of the synapse constantly and turn over in hours or days.
Hardts lab showed that a dedicated mechanism continuously promotes the expression of AMPA receptors at synapses. Yet some memories are still forgotten. Hardt proposed that AMPA receptors can also be removed, which suggests that forgetting is an active process. If that were true, then preventing the removal of AMPA receptors should prevent forgetting. When Hardt and his colleagues blocked the mechanism behind AMPA-receptor removal in the hippocampi of rats, as expected, they found that the rats were prevented from forgetting the locations of objects. To forget certain things, it seemed that the rat brain had to proactively destroy connections at the synapse. Forgetting, Hardt says, is not a failure of memory, but a function of it.
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What Controls Short Term Memory
Short-term memory primarily takes place in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortet. Then the information makes a stopover in the hippocampus. A 2014 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a small number of neurons in the hippocampus may hold the memories of recent events.
Various Types Of Memory
To help you understand what exactly each part of the brain does in relation to memories, it is also important to understand what the different types of memories are. Lets take a look at each type of memory involved in the human brain.
Short Term Memory Short term is closely related to working memory, and it usually involves being able to remember recent events that happened up to 1 minute ago, give or take.
Sensory Memory Sensory memory is a very short-term type of memory, one related to our senses, and this type of memory is usually only a few seconds in nature.
Long Term Memory Generally speaking, long term memory is the ability for our brain to store, manage, and retrieve memories from the past. There are various forms of long-term memory.
Explicit Memory One type of long-term memory is explicit memory, which involves conscious memory, such as declarative memory, which can then be broken down into further categories. Declarative memory can take the form of episodic memory, which is related to events and experiences, as well as semantic memory, which is related to facts and concepts.
Implicit Memory Implicit memory is another form of long-term memory, but an unconscious kind of memory, mainly procedural memory, which has to do with skills and tasks, like motor skills.
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The Mystery Of Hearing
A brief description of the workings of the ear can make them soundsimple and straightforward. But in fact, the more we learn of hearing,the deeper a mystery it becomes. For example, it was recentlydemonstrated that the ear emitssounds. When someone hears a ringing in the ears that same ringing can be measured and recorded in the earcanal. It is even audible to others. If you hold your ear to someoneelses, and if the room is very quiet, you can hear the reportedringing from the other persons ear. This mystery is called cochlearamplification, and no one knows what causes it or how it works.
While the auditory pathways are still not fully understood, we knowenough to comprehend that the gift of hearing is instilled with magicand wonder.
Ted Uzzle is director of instructional development at NSCA andeditor emeritus of S& VC.
What Are The Parts Of The Brain
The brain has three main sections: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.
The forebrain is the largest and most complex part of the brain. It consists of the cerebrum the area with all the folds and grooves typically seen in pictures of the brain as well as other structures under it.
The cerebrum contains the information that essentially makes you who you are: your intelligence, memory, personality, emotion, speech, and ability to feel and move. Specific areas of the cerebrum are in charge of processing these different types of information. These are called lobes, and there are four of them: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes.
The cerebrum has right and left halves, called hemispheres. Theyre connected in the middle by a band of nerve fibers that lets them communicate. These halves may look like mirror images of each other, but many scientists believe they have different functions:
- The left side is considered the logical, analytical, objective side.
- The right side is thought to be more intuitive, creative, and subjective.
So when youre balancing your checkbook, youre using the left side. When youre listening to music, youre using the right side. Its believed that some people are more right-brained or left-brained while others are more whole-brained, meaning they use both halves of their brain to the same degree.
In the inner part of the forebrain sits the thalamus, hypothalamus, and :
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The Brain Is Flexible: Neuroplasticity
The control of some specific bodily functions, such as movement, vision, and hearing, is performed in specified areas of the cortex, and if these areas are damaged, the individual will likely lose the ability to perform the corresponding function. For instance, if an infant suffers damage to facial recognition areas in the temporal lobe, it is likely that he or she will never be able to recognize faces . On the other hand, the brain is not divided up in an entirely rigid way. The brains neurons have a remarkable capacity to reorganize and extend themselves to carry out particular functions in response to the needs of the organism and to repair damage. As a result, the brain constantly creates new neural communication routes and rewires existing ones. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to change its structure and function in response to experience or damage. Neuroplasticity enables us to learn and remember new things and adjust to new experiences.
Although neurons cannot repair or regenerate themselves as skin or blood vessels can, new evidence suggests that the brain can engage in neurogenesis, the forming of new neurons . These new neurons originate deep in the brain and may then migrate to other brain areas, where they form new connections with other neurons . This leaves open the possibility that someday scientists might be able to rebuild damaged brains by creating drugs that help grow neurons.
The Neuroscience Of Memory Recall
So, how do you fine-tune and upgrade that mental Ethernet connection to have a stronger memory recall? By building strong neural pathways.
Basically, to have a powerful memory recall means to have strong synaptic connections the better your cells are able to communicate with each other, the more quickly and accurately you will be able to access memories. You can strengthen these synaptic connections by sending the signal more frequently and having the neurons communicate more often. This paves a strong and clear neural pathway its like when a hiking path is more traveled, its easier to walk along.
The brain works this way because it is neuroplastic, meaning that it is constantly changing shape and form to suit your present needs. For instance, do you really need to remember all of the kids names you went to elementary school with? Since you dont, your brain works in this handy use it or lose it fashion. Thanks to this process of neuroplasticity, your brain is able to constantly take in new information and sharply perform the needs of now.
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Blood Supply To The Brain
Two sets of blood vessels supply blood and oxygen to the brain: the vertebral arteries and the carotid arteries.
The external carotid arteries extend up the sides of your neck, and are where you can feel your pulse when you touch the area with your fingertips. The internal carotid arteries branch into the skull and circulate blood to the front part of the brain.
The vertebral arteries follow the spinal column into the skull, where they join together at the brainstem and form the basilar artery, which supplies blood to the rear portions of the brain.
The circle of Willis, a loop of blood vessels near the bottom of the brain that connects major arteries, circulates blood from the front of the brain to the back and helps the arterial systems communicate with one another.
The World In The Front Of The Brain
Short-term and long-term memory are not the only forms in which the brain stores information. All the time that the five senses are operating, the brain is assembling and sorting perceptions of the outside world, directing some to conscious attention and collecting others into a set of perpetually updated mental representations. Although we may seldom be aware of the full extent of these mental representations, or examine them directly, nevertheless, they hold great importance for our thought processes and our ability to carry out the simplest planned action or predictive step, even something as elementary as following a fast-moving target with our eyes. These mental representations are the data on which we base cognitionour thoughts, ideas, and abstract mental processes.
Animals, too, form complex mental representations of the world, which are shaped by their own brain structure and ecological requirements. For instance, information gathered through the sense of smell undoubtedly plays a much larger role in the mental representations of a dog than in those of a bird, which relies much more on its excellent vision to help it recognize its kin, observe the territories of its rivals, and seek out food and mates. With such differences taken into account, the study of mental representation in animals can help scientists explain similar processes in humans, particularly if the neurobiology of the animal is also under study or is well known from earlier research.
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Cerebellar Substrate Of Classical Conditioning Of Discrete Responses
The literature concerned with the brain circuitry essential for delay classical conditioning of discrete behavioral responses has been reviewed in several recent publications and will be summarized only briefly here . Most of the work has used the conditioned eyeblink response as the model system for analysis. The highly simplified schematic block diagram of Fig. can serve to summarize overall results to date and is a much simplified version of our current qualitative working model of the role of the cerebellum in basic delay classical conditioning of discrete responses.
Simplified schematic of the essential brain circuitry involved in classical conditioning of discrete responsese.g., eyeblink response. Shadowed boxes represent areas that have been reversibly inactivated during training. Inactivation of motor nuclei including facial and accessory 6th. Inactivation of magnocellular red nucleus. Inactivation of dorsal aspect of the anterior interpositus nucleus and overlying cerebellar cortex. Inactivation of ventral anterior interpositus nucleus and associated white matter. Complete inactivation of the superior cerebellar peduncle , essentially all output from the cerebellar hemisphere. See text for details.
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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Which Side Of Brain Is For Memory
In most people, language skills are in the left side of the brain. The right side controls attention, memory, reasoning, and problem solving.
What part of the brain is responsible for thinking reasoning and memory? The cerebral cortex is responsible for most higher order or intellectual brain functions such as thinking, reasoning, judging, planning, voluntary movement, and overall behavior. Injury to this area of the brain can impair judgment, cause dramatic personality change, and create problems with attention and focus.
The Cerebellum And Prefrontal Cortex
Although the hippocampus seems to be more of a processing area for explicit memories, you could still lose it and be able to create implicit memories , thanks to your cerebellum . For example, one classical conditioning experiment is to accustom subjects to blink when they are given a puff of air. When researchers damaged the cerebellums of rabbits, they discovered that the rabbits were not able to learn the conditioned eye-blink response .
Other researchers have used brain scans, including positron emission tomography scans, to learn how people process and retain information. From these studies, it seems the prefrontal cortex is involved. In one study, participants had to complete two different tasks: either looking for the letter a in words or categorizing a noun as either living or non-living . Participants were then asked which words they had previously seen. Recall was much better for the semantic task than for the perceptual task. According to PET scans, there was much more activation in the left inferior prefrontal cortex in the semantic task. In another study, encoding was associated with left frontal activity, while retrieval of information was associated with the right frontal region .
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Neuroscientists Identify Brain Circuit Necessary For Memory Formation
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When we visit a friend or go to the beach, our brain stores a short-term memory of the experience in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. Those memories are later consolidated that is, transferred to another part of the brain for longer-term storage.
A new MIT study of the neural circuits that underlie this process reveals, for the first time, that memories are actually formed simultaneously in the hippocampus and the long-term storage location in the brains cortex. However, the long-term memories remain silent for about two weeks before reaching a mature state.
This and other findings in this paper provide a comprehensive circuit mechanism for consolidation of memory, says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, the director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and the studys senior author.
The findings, which appear in Science on April 6, may force some revision of the dominant models of how memory consolidation occurs, the researchers say.