How to Increase Prefrontal Cortex Activity?

This article will answer the question of how we can increase prefrontal cortex activity. The article will also explain in detail what the prefrontal cortex is, the different parts of the prefrontal cortex and its uses. 

How to Increase Prefrontal Cortex Activity?

Prefrontal cortex activity can be increased by engaging in activities that target particular functions of the brain that are executed by the prefrontal cortex. These include:

  • Playing Stimulating Games
  • Learning a New Skill
  • Cooking
  • Doing Math
  • Following a Fixed Sleep Routine
  • Disengaging with Drama
  • Engaging in Sports
  • Being Grateful
  • Social Connection
  • Being Creative
  • Multitasking

We will be looking into these techniques in detail further in the article. Let us first understand what the prefrontal cortex is and its various functions.

Prefrontal Cortex

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) is in the front section of the human brain. The prefrontal cortex comprises more than 25% of the cerebral cortex. It is situated in the frontal lobe. The prefrontal cortex is connected to the limbic system. The limbic system is located on the thalamus (both sides of it) and includes the amygdala, hippocampus, as well as hypothalamus.

The prefrontal cortex is involved in cognition, decision making, information processing, problem-solving, emotional regulation and mediation, and working memory, and it also releases dopamine and serotonin into the brain. If there is any damage to the prefrontal cortex, it can lead to mental health dysfunctions like:

  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar Disorder

This has been studied by neuroscientists with the help of neuroimaging technologies. Thus, any damage, impairment, lesions, or underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex can have far-reaching consequences.

Parts of the Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is comprised of different brain regions as found by studies (Carlén, 2017). The standard parts of the mammalian prefrontal cortex are:

Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC)

The Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) has connections with other cortical areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as well as the parietal cortex. DLPFC is in charge of executive functions. 

These include planning, abstract reasoning, short-term memory, attention, and inhibition. It also includes other cognitive abilities of the higher-order such as decision-making. The DLPFC undergoes an immense level of growth until adulthood, usually till the age of 25.

Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex (DMPFC)

The Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex (DMPFC) is in control of different brain activities including interfering mental states that allow us to make well-thought, rational decisions in difficult situations. It also plays an important role in the formation of self-identity and helps us in making judgements about the world.

Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex (VLPFC): 

The ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) is responsible for receiving signals from the subcortical areas and the orbitofrontal cortex. This helps in managing a person’s control over impulses or reckless behaviours. The VLPFC also utilises this information in order to design adequate goal-directed behaviour. This also helps us in decision-making.

Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC)

The Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC) is responsible for processing fear and risks. It also manages the inhibition of emotional response and operates on the decision-making process as well as self-control. 

vmPFC collects information from different areas of the brain including the temporal lobe, the olfactory system, and the amygdala to assist humans in interpreting a situation and then making appropriate decisions.

Orbitofrontal Cortex

The orbitofrontal cortex is directly situated above the eye sockets. It assists in guiding behaviours, it helps us in managing impulsivity. It also assesses long-term rewards and directs behaviours accordingly. The orbitofrontal cortex also plays an essential role in emotional responses of empathy and aggression among others.

Detailed Steps to Increase Prefrontal Cortext Activity

Prefrontal cortex activity can be increased by engaging in activities that target particular functions of the brain that are executed by the prefrontal cortex. These include:

Playing Stimulating Games

Games such as word games, memory-related games, and puzzles are efficient ways to strengthen the prefrontal cortex. In fact, playing these games regularly not only activates your prefrontal cortex, it also encourages neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the way in which our brain is able to create and reinforce newer, more efficient interconnections.

Learning a New Skill

Learning something new is a great way to stimulate the prefrontal cortex. You could learn a new language, or an instrument, it is an even more effective way of enhancing the functioning of the prefrontal cortex than just playing games. 

Learning new things forces your brain to get out of your comfort zone and assimilate the new information it is receiving together, thus activating the prefrontal cortex.

Cooking 

Cooking entails the activation of various brain areas, including our senses. Cooking also demands our hand-eye coordination, concentration, planning, memory, as well as decision-making. We also multitask while cooking several dishes at once. Thus, this requires high levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex, and thus strengthens it. 

Doing Math

Math involves higher-order thinking, especially when the problems are difficult in nature. This helps in training the brain and pushing it to use logic, rational thinking, and analytical skills, as well as try different problem-solving methods to reach the correct answer. 

Following a Fixed Sleep Routine

Choose a pleasant and calming activity that can help you fall asleep with relative ease. Getting adequate sleep helps in strengthening neural connections of the brain and thus improves memory as well as regulates emotions.

Disengaging with Drama

Drama activates the amygdala due to its unnecessary negativity. This offsets the prefrontal cortex and limits our rational decision-making process. Thus, avoid drama and do not get caught up in gossip.

Engaging in Sports

Engaging in sports like football, cricket, or basketball helps ease stress as well as improves our coordination, planning, and decision-making abilities. Doing martial arts, yoga, or dance also helps in activating the prefrontal cortex.

Being Grateful

Thinking positively helps in releasing dopamine in the brain which improves its functioning, as well as motivates us further. Gratitude is one way to instil positive emotions that can in turn activate the prefrontal cortex. 

Social Connection

Social connection soothes the brain and calms it down. It helps in increasing the efficiency of inhibitory responses. Thus, go out and spend time with your friends or family members. 

Being Creative

Be creative. Create imaginary scenarios, sentences, and acronyms in order to remember new information. These skills help in engaging our executive functioning and enhance our working memory. Since the prefrontal cortex is involved in regulating both the executive functioning system and working memory, these activities also increase activity in the prefrontal cortex. 

Multitasking

Learning to multitask is a good way to fire off more neurons in the brain in a positive way. You can listen to music while doing math, or learn cooking or martial arts. Multitasking strengthens the executive functioning of the brain and thus activating the prefrontal cortex. 

Skills of the Prefrontal Cortex

The skills that the prefrontal cortex possesses are: 

  • Reasoning
  • Problem-solving
  • Impulse-control
  • Perseverance
  • Comprehension

ADHD and The Prefrontal Cortex

Several studies have found an association between ADHD and the weaker functioning or damage in the structures of the prefrontal cortex. This has been found especially in the right hemisphere of the brain (Arnsten, 2006; Friedman & Rapoport, 2015). ADHD includes symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, as well as difficulty in making decisions. These are also key areas in which the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in managing and regulating. Thus, damage to the prefrontal cortex can lead to ADHD.

Conclusion

The blog covered in-depth the techniques that can help in increasing prefrontal cortex activity. It also covered in detail what the prefrontal cortex is, what are the different parts of the prefrontal cortex, the skills of the prefrontal cortex, as well as its role in ADHD.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to Increase Prefrontal Cortex Activity?

What are the foods that can boost the prefrontal cortex?

In order to boost the prefrontal cortex, include the following foods in your diet: Blueberries, green leafy vegetables, salmon, beans, coffee or tea, turmeric, dark chocolate, and tomatoes. Please make sure to include these foods in moderation in your diet instead of overindulging.

What vitamins boost the frontal lobe?

Omega-3 fish oil is great in boosting the frontal lobe. It contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA plays an important role in the structure of the brain and is heavily found in the frontal lobes.

What can damage the prefrontal cortex?

The prefrontal cortex can be damaged by injuries, strokes, infections, or neurodegenerative disorders. If damaged, it can affect the executive functioning of the brain.

Is working memory a function of the prefrontal cortex?

The prefrontal cortex is crucial for the functioning of the working memory and is associated with controlling it. 

Does the prefrontal cortex regulate emotions?

Yes, the prefrontal cortex plays an important role in modulating and regulating emotions. However, there are individual differences in the extent of the same as the amygdala also controls emotional reactivity.

References

Arnsten, A. F. (2006). Stimulants: therapeutic actions in ADHD. Neuropsychopharmacology, 31(11), 2376-2383.

Carlén, M. (2017). What constitutes the prefrontal cortex?. Science, 358(6362), 478-482.

Friedman, L. A., & Rapoport, J. L. (2015). Brain development in ADHD. Current opinion in neurobiology, 30, 106-111.

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