How can I understand my brain?

Carrying out daily activities, reasoning, making decisions, sometimes you can easily remember things and others not, how does this happen?

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’How can I understand my brain?’’, From neuroscience we will explain the basic concepts to understand the functioning of your control tower: the brain.

How can I understand my brain?

The first thing you must do to understand your brain is to understand how it works: The communication process between neurons, the reception of stimulus and how the brain processes information.

The human brain is the most complex structure in the universe. So much so that he sets himself the challenge of understanding himself. The brain dictates all of our mental activity from unconscious processes, such as breathing, to the most elaborate philosophical thoughts, and contains more neurons than the existing stars in the galaxy.

For thousands of years, civilization has wondered about the origin of thought, consciousness, social interaction, creativity, perception, free will, and emotion. 

Until a few decades ago, these questions were addressed only by philosophers, artists, religious leaders, and scientists working in isolation; In recent years, neurosciences emerged as a new tool to try to understand these enigmas.

What does neuroscience study?

Neuroscience studies the nervous system. Its objective is to understand how the nervous system and the brain work, which is essential to understand ourselves as human beings. But neuroscience also provides the foundations that allow us to combat brain diseases, neurological or mental.

The interesting thing about Neuroscience is that it’s an integrative science, since it’s the result of combining many scientific disciplines at the common service of understanding the nervous system.

I’m talking about the classic neuroanatomy and neurophysiology and those that have been coming together, such as neurochemistry, neuropharmacology, molecular neurobiology, psychology, psychiatry, bioinformatics, etc. Therefore, neuroscientific studies provide data on the mechanisms of our sensations, our thoughts and emotions, our intelligence and, of course, our social behavior.

As it’s a fundamental area for human knowledge, it’s understandable and necessary that neuroscience processes not only remain in laboratories, but are absorbed and debated by society in general. If we had a kidney or lung transplant, we would still be ourselves. But if our brains were changed, we would become different people.

Basic ideas about how the brain works

You don’t need to be a neuroscientist to understand the basics of how the brain works. Certainly your body’s control center is complex, much goes on inside the skull, but there are a handful of concepts that can help you understand the basics of brain power.

Get started exercising your brain muscles and learn these four brain science basics.

Mechanics of brain power

Your brain has nearly 100 billion (100,000,000,000) neurons. Each neuron links with other neurons to create networks that, in total, generate billions of connections.

This massive and complex network makes your brain the powerful central computer that it is, and this is how it makes it possible for the brain to manage everything it is entrusted with: thinking, reacting, remembering and controlling every aspect of your life.

But how does it work?

The neurons in your brain look like a tree trunk, with a main body (called a soma) and roots that extend in all directions. And just as tree roots are to absorb and branch down into the earth for nutrients and water, the roots that emanate from a neuron’s body need to come together and communicate.

That’s the reason why neurons have two types of extensions: dendrites and an axon. Dendrites gather information and absorb signals from other neurons, while the axon transmits messages using specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Sinapsis

Synapses are the interfaces where messages are transferred. These connections between the axon terminals of one neuron and the dendrites of another make communication in the brain possible.

Each of your neurons is like a small television news network. Reporters and producers are the dendrites who go to the sources, collect the facts and prepare the news. The newscaster is the axon, which relays the messages from the news network (or, in this example, the neuron).

Together, this connected community of information-sharing elements keeps your brain up-to-date and in fluid communication.

Explore your ability to adapt through neuroplasticity

Your brain assimilates a ton of information minute by minute, day after day. Your environment, your emotions, and other circumstances also change constantly. With all that information and perpetual change, your brain has to adapt.

Neuroplasticity describes the incredible flexibility of your brain, which is much more than the ability to change your mind on a topic. Neuroplasticity is the physical adaptations your brain makes by rewiring neural networks and connections.

Through neuroplasticity, your powerful brain can change the area where certain tasks are performed should that need arise.

Many circumstances have been shown to promote brain reorganization through neuroplasticity. Physical injuries, emotional trauma, and emotional stress can all initiate change. More positive situations, such as learning and improving your environment, can also stimulate neuroplasticity.

You know your brain is going to adapt. What you can do is help guide you through positive habits.

Executive functions help you grow mentally

Your ability to deal with your daily life has a lot to do with a set of cognitive skills called executive functions. And you learned and earned these skills, because you’re not born with fully developed executive functions.

They include:

  • Shift attention
  • Control your impulses
  • Regulate their behavior
  • Consider the consequences before acting
  • Keep focus

Executive functions also help you shuffle through abstractions until you finally create concrete conclusions, encompassing your working memory, mental flexibility, and aspects of your problem-solving abilities.

Even if this concept is new to you, it isn’t new to your brain. You have used your executive functions to make your way through school. These features have helped you meet your physical health goals.

Executive functions have even helped you manage your emotions during difficult or confusing times. And now you know what to call them.

Working memory vs. short term memory

Defining memory seems straightforward. It’s what you can remember, right? The storage capacity of your brain. What you can remember when you need it.

Memory is a bit more than that. It begins with the definition and differentiation of the main types of memory.

Long-term memory is self-explanatory and can be easily differentiated from short-term memory and working memory. If it is stored for more than a minute, it will most likely fall into the category of long-term memory. However, the comparison between working memory and long-term memory is a bit more confusing.

Short-term memory is the ability to remember small amounts of information for less than a minute. Your ability to hold a number in your mind long enough to stop writing it down is an example of short-term memory. But you forget a lot of what is stored in short-term memory.

Working memory has limited space, but it is a way to move information from the senses to short and long-term memory, and it also brings longer-stored units of information to the center of your attention and mixes them with current stimuli to help you accomplish the tasks that occupy you.

Cooking your favorite dishes is a good example of what working memory is.

You get the ingredients, the proportions and the times for each step from your long-term memory. Your working memory helps you complete the dish by mixing sights, sounds, and smells with the saved recipe information. This helps your dish to be well prepared, without extra ingredients or without ingredients that are not suitable, and prepared correctly.

And so what is the main difference between working memory and short-term memory? Working memory allows you to manipulate memories and stimuli. Short-term memory is just temporary storage.

How to improve brain function?

1. Regularly practice sports or physical activities

Aerobic physical exercise benefits brain capacities in both children and adults. Those who have a more intense weekly physical activity also have better memory and greater flexibility and speed of mental information processing. 

Even just 30 minutes of cycling or running a day can be enough to improve reaction time and the speed of information processing in the brain.

2. Avoid excess fat in the diet

Proper nutrition is important. Avoid diets high in fat, as they are diets that reduce the sensitivity of NMDA receptors, which are brain molecules that are part of the neuronal plasticity mechanisms that make memory formation possible in places such as the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex.

3. Get enough sleep regularly

Anticipatory sleep prepares the brain to learn and, when it occurs after learning, enhances the formation and stabilization of memories. This is because the same neurons that are activated to record information when we learn are activated again when we sleep.

Sleep is, therefore, a cerebral way of practicing and strengthening what you have learned during the day.

4. Train your working memory frequently

This memory is what we use to think, reason, plan for the future and make decisions. With it we keep in mind, for example, the possible moves to make in a game of chess or the different options to make a decision.

The intense practice in working memory increases the activity of the prefrontal and parietal cortices of the brain on which it depends and also increases the neuronal connections between both cerebral hemispheres.

What’s next on your neuroscience journey?

This is just the tip of the brain science iceberg. But now that you know more about these topics, you can expand your knowledge with some interesting facts about your brain. Or maybe it’s time for you to take action. Start feeding your brain the right foods and establish a baseline to help you track the progress of your cognitive skills.

No matter where this tunnel takes us, you now understand how your brain will adapt, how your neurons will facilitate the communication of new information, and how facts will be stored in your brain.

In short, we can say that the brain processes sensory information, compares it with the information it has acquired in the form of memory or experience, controls and coordinates actions and therefore decides the most appropriate behavioral responses to a given situation. 

In this exquisite and finely regulated function, there are an enormity of processes, many of which it is interesting to know how they work.

FAQS: How can I understand my brain?

How do you know if your brain is healthy?

You have a good memory.
You sleep well
Your emotions are under control.
You make decisions with ease.
You eat well.

How do you use your brain to think?

To increase the thinking capacity consider:
Exercise
Train your memory
Read
Sleep well

Do we need to study the brain to understand the mind?

Yes, to understand the mind you must understand the brain. All behavioral and cognitive processes take place in the brain.

Can the brain understand itself?

Yes, the brain can understand itself. Various communication processes are involved so that the brain knows what is happening.

How can I sharpen my brain?

Add these habits to strengthen your brain:
1. Follow difficult ideas
2. Exercise
3. Talk
4. Take online courses
5. Read

In this article we answered the question ‘’How can I understand my brain?’’, From neuroscience we explained the basic concepts to understand the functioning of your control tower: the brain.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual review of psychology, 64, 135-168.

‌Frackowiak, R. S. (2004). Human brain function. Elsevier.

Neuroscience. (2020). Retrieved October 4, 2020, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/neuroscience

Memory. (2020). Retrieved October 4, 2020, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/memory#-how-memory-works-

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