Your Brain and How it Functions

September 17

In my member post Think to Shrink, I talked about the power of the brain and how to effectively use its force to bring about change in your life. In this post, I want to focus on the brain and how incredibly hard this organ works to keep the body functioning.{+}

The brain depends on five key players to assimilate and process all the messages and tasks coming from the rest of the body. The cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus make up the five main parts of the brain. Memory, involuntary movements and dreams all stem from these top performers.

The Cerebrum
The biggest part of the brain is the cerebrum, which encompasses 85% of the brain’s weight. The cerebrum is the thinking part of the brain and it controls your voluntary muscles — the ones that move when you want them to. This part of your brain allows you to dance, exercise or ride a bike.
When you have to concentrate, you’re using your cerebrum. You need it to solve financial problems, figure out a recipe, and paint a picture. Your memory lives in the cerebrum — both short-term memory (what you ate for dinner last night) and long-term memory (the name of that handsome guy you dated two summers ago). The cerebrum also helps you reason, like whether or not to have that piece of chocolate cake.
The cerebrum has two halves, with one on either side of the head. Some scientists think that the right half helps you think about abstract things like music, art and romance. The left half is said to be more analytical, helping you with math, logic, and speech. Scientists do agree that the right half of the cerebrum controls the left side of your body, and the left half controls the right side.

The Cerebellum
Next in line is the cerebellum. The cerebellum is at the back of the brain, located below the cerebrum. It’s a lot smaller than the cerebrum at only an eighth of its size. But that shouldn’t diminish its importance. This part of the brain controls balance, movement, and coordination (how your muscles work together). Your cerebellum allows you to stand upright, keep your balance, and move around.

The Brain Stem
Another brain part that’s small but mighty is the brain stem. The brain stem sits beneath the cerebrum and in front of the cerebellum. It connects the rest of the brain to the spinal cord, which runs down your neck and back. The brain stem is in charge of all the functions your body needs to stay alive, like breathing, digestion, and circulation.
Controlling your involuntary muscles like telling your heart to pump more blood when you’re biking or signaling your stomach to start digesting your lunch, is just part of the job of the brain stem. It is also responsible for sorting through the millions of messages that the brain and the rest of the body send back and forth. The brain stem works like a secretary for the brain.

Pituitary Gland Controls Growth
The pituitary gland is very small — only about the size of a pea. Its job is to produce and release hormones into your body. Growth hormone (GH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin are the six main hormones released by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland. The posterior lobe produces only two hormones: antidiuretic and oxytocin.
These hormones can play a major role in a woman’s health. The luteinizing hormone stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs and the sex organs to produce sex estrogen. Prolactin stimulates the mammary glands of the breasts to produce milk. This is the hormone responsible when a nursing mother finds herself lactating at the sound of a baby’s cry. The pituitary gland commands the milk production because of a signal it received from the hypothalamus!

The main function of the hypothalamus is to maintain the body’s status quo. Blood pressure, body temperature, fluid and electrolyte balance, appetite and body weight are all part of the hypothalamus domain.

It is responsible for signaling the pituitary gland to take action by producing certain hormones required to keep the body healthy. Ultimately the hypothalamus can control every endocrine gland in the body and alter blood pressure (through vasopressin and vasoconstriction), body temperature, metabolism (through TSH), and adrenaline levels (through ACTH).

Your Nervous System
The brain is the ring-leader, but it takes a lot of nerves to run the show. This big job requires the spinal cord, a long bundle of nerves inside your spinal column known as the nervous system. These nerves allow messages to flow back and forth between the brain and body.
The nervous system is made up of millions and millions of neurons, which are microscopic cells. Each neuron has tiny branches coming off it that let it connect to many other neurons.
Think back to the first time you drove a car. Your brain had to think about pressing the gas, steering the car, watching the road, and maybe even hitting the brakes — all at once. It was pretty hard work at first. But eventually, as you got more practice, the neurons sent messages back and forth until a pathway was created in your brain. Now you can drive nearly any vehicle without thinking much about it because the neurons have successfully created this pathway for your brain.

Your brain has a small group of cells on each side of it called the amygdala. The word amygdala is Latin for almond, and that’s what this area looks like.
The amygdala is responsible for emotions such as fear, anger, happiness or sadness. It can make you feel wonderful or turn your day upside down. Learning to control your amygdala is the key to keeping life’s little ups and downs in perspective.
When you Think to Shrink, you have to take control of your mind to focus only on your goal and how you will achieve it.
Be Brain Healthy
• Eat healthy foods. Be sure to get plenty of potassium and calcium, two minerals that are important for the nervous system.
• Get regular exercise.
• Wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle.
• If you drink alcohol, use it moderately.
• Don’t take drugs or use tobacco.
• Challenge your brain with complex activities, such as puzzles, writing, reading, playing music, crafts, or anything else that works your brain.

Start a discussion by leaving a comment.

~ Karen Ficarelli

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One Comment

  1. thank you so much for this very well explaind article:)

  2. su on 01/24/2010 at 11:10 am

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