Three Elements of the Brain

The brain has 90 billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synapses (source: Matthew Shaer 2019). We only use a very small fraction of our brain.

NB The pre-frontal cortex is around 30% of our brain.

. The brain has 3 key elements, ie

i. "Lizard brain" (it is like auto-pilot/automatic functions; controls your body's housekeeping functions like breathing, heart rate, sleeping, waking, etc; its functions revolve around 4Fs, ie fighting, feeding, fleeing and f...... - reproductive behaviour)

ii. Routine/habit functions , ie amygdala (controls past and current feeling/emotions of rage, fear, pleasure, etc); also contains the hippocampus (converts short-term memories into long-term forms), thalamus (the control tower for our senses)

iii. Cortex (human brain which is highly specialized for speech, vision and memory). In our evolution to adapt better to our environment we did not become stronger, we became smarter, ie what distinguishes us from other species is the prefrontal cortex (a specialized area just behind our forehead that is the most recent addition to the brain). This area governs our executive functions like problem solving, maintaining attention, inhibiting emotional impulses, thoughts, memories, creative thinking, etc..

"... It is where we hold thoughts that are not being generated from external sources or from senses..."

Amy Arnsten as quoted by David Rock, 2009

"...Your prefrontal cortex is the biological seat of your conscious interactions with the world..."

David Rock, 2009

NB The brain is energy-hungry, ie is 2% of the body weight but uses
- 20% of the energy intake
- 20% of the oxygen intake
- generates 20% of the body heat
NB executive function thinking is the most exhausting of the 3 functions

. When people learn something they are rewiring their brains, ie the physical structure of the neurons participating in the process change. They swell, sway and split; they break connections in one spot and form connections elsewhere

. The brain acts like a muscle. The more you use it, the larger and more complex it can become: use it or loss it!!!!!

. We are borne with some preset circuits controlling our basic functions like breathing, heartbeat, etc. This leaves other parts of our brain to develop based on experience. Despite a great deal of the structure and function of the brain being predictable, we are hardwired to be flexible with various parts of our brain developing at different rates in different people. No 2 people's brains store the same information in the same way. Thus learning results in physical changes in the brain; each change is unique to each individual. Consequently, human intellect is multi-faceted.

. The main development of the brain occurs before 20 years of age but fine-tuning continues all our lives, especially until mid 40s. Different parts of the brain develop at different times. For example, there is a great deal of brain connectivity activity when we are around 2 years and again in our teenage years.

. Conscious thinking involves deeply complex biological interactions in the brain amongst millions of neurons.

. Every time the brain works on an idea consciously, it uses up a measurable and limited resource. Think of conscious thinking is a precious resource to conserve. Some mental processes use a lot more energy than others; for example, prioritising, dealing with emails, etc are energy-intense activities and themselves need prioritising. Need to schedule the most attention-rich tasks when you are fresh and alert.

. Use the brain to interact with information rather than trying to store information, by writing things down and using visuals for complex ideas; schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking

. In change contexts we need to know how the brain works in order to best handle change. Tiny changes in behaviour can generate substantially different outcomes.

"...subtle internal changes, which can happen within a fraction of a second and may not be noticeable to the outside world, can sometime change everything..."

David Rock, 2009

Diagram of the Brain

organisational development change management

What Different Parts of the Brain Do

Hippocampus handles our complex memories
Cerebellum stores procedural & motor learning
Amygdala handles fearful memories & emotion-based learning
Basal Ganglia deals with cognition, learning &motor control
Frontal Lobe deals with working memory, abstract thought & some physical movement memories
Temporal Lobe handles recognition & autobiographical memory, language & auditory memory
Parietal Lobe deals with sensory learning & short term memory
Occipital Lobe handles vision & reading

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