How does the brain affect our behavior?

The brain - the control center of our body

Status: 06/07/2018 9:03 p.m. | archive
Together with the spinal cord, the brain forms the central nervous system.

It contains around 90 billion nerve cells and is the thinking and feeling center of our body: The brain is by far the most exciting and also the most complex organ in the human body. It controls almost all vital body functions, processes sensory impressions, enables thinking and many other processes in the body.

This is how the brain is built

The brain is the control center of our body. It is surrounded by meninges and the skull bone. In this solid shell, it swims in the cerebrospinal fluid (liquor), which protects the brain from injuries and vibrations. Together with the spinal cord, the brain forms what is known as the central nervous system (CNS). Nerve pathways run through the spinal cord to almost all regions of the body.

Roughly divided, the human brain consists of four areas:

  • Cerebrum with cortex: The cerebrum (or endbrain) is the largest and most highly developed part of the brain and plays a major role in thinking, feeling and acting. The information from the sensory organs arrives in the cerebrum and is evaluated and processed. The cerebrum is divided into two largely symmetrical halves (hemispheres), which are connected by a bundle of nerve fibers called beams.
  • Diencephalon: The thalamus and the hypothalamus with the pituitary gland are located here. The thalamus filters all stimuli such as touch or smell before they reach the cerebrum. The hypothalamus connects the hormonal system with the nervous system and controls many body functions such as the perception of temperature.
  • Cerebellum: The cerebellum weighs around 130 to 140 grams, ten times less than the cerebrum. It coordinates movements, balance and language acquisition.
  • Brain stem: The brain stem controls many important vital functions such as circulation, blood pressure, breathing and sleep. Reflexes such as coughing and vomiting are also controlled from there. The brain stem extends down into the spinal cord.

The human brain weighs around 1,300 kilograms.
Men's brains are heavier

The human brain weighs around 1,300 kilograms, with a man's brain being around 100 grams heavier than that of a woman. But that doesn't mean that men are more intelligent: the size of the brain is more dependent on the weight and stature of its owner. For comparison: the brain of a sperm whale weighs up to 9.5 kilograms and the brain of an elephant around 4.5 kilograms.

Differences between men and women

Apparently there are differences between the male and female brains. A study from 2013 showed that the exchange of information between the two hemispheres of the brain works better in women. But men have a better connection within the hemispheres. This explains better spatial imagination in men and more empathy, i.e. empathy for others, in women. However, other studies have also shown that the brains of men and women are not fundamentally different, but are both a mosaic of male and female parts. The similarities are greater than the differences. Whether we behave in a typically male or female manner depends above all on upbringing and cultural role models.

Memory: How information is stored

In the brain, all information coming in via the sensory organs comes together and is filtered and in some cases stored. There are different "storage disks" for this:

  • Sensory memory: In the sensory memory (ultra-short-term memory) information that we hear or see is stored for a short time. For example, we can understand relationships in conversations. If this data is not retrieved or rated as relevant within a very short period of time, it is immediately deleted to make room for new information. What is of interest comes into short-term memory.
  • Short term memory: Information is stored in short-term memory for seconds to minutes. Short-term memory is important, for example, in order to know where we put the car key and who to call back. Few of the information goes into long-term memory.
  • Long-term memory: Information is permanently stored in long-term memory. A distinction is made between declarative and implied memory: declarative memory stores information that can be consciously accessed, such as childhood experiences (episodic memory) or vocabulary and professional knowledge (semantic memory). Information in implied memory can be accessed unconsciously: we do something without thinking about it. This includes motor processes such as swimming and cycling.

Training for the brain

Our brain is constantly changing, depending on what experiences we have and what we learn. It absorbs new information and links it with existing knowledge. Targeted training, but also sport, healthy eating and learning new things can have a positive effect on one's performance. Donkey bridges can help memorize certain things, because the memory is best able to remember information that seems interesting and important to it and that is well networked.

A myth is that so-called multitasking - doing several tasks at once - is particularly effective. Exactly the opposite is the case, because the brain is up to 40 percent slower when it has to jump back and forth between several tasks.

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My afternoon | 06/08/2018 | 4:20 pm