Brain functioning

CEREBRAL CORTEX Frontal Lobe: Most anterior,
right under the forehead. Consciousness, emotions,
judgments, assigns meaning to words, symbols, etc.
Loss of simple movement of various body parts
(Paralysis). Inability to plan a sequence of complex
movements needed to complete multi-stepped tasks, such
as making coffee (Sequencing). Loss of spontaneity in
interacting with others. Loss of flexibility in thinking.
Persistence of a single thought (Perseverance). Inability
to focus on task (Attending). Mood changes. Changes in
social behavior. Changes in personality. Difficulty with
problem solving.
Inability to express language (Broca's Aphasia).
Parietal Lobe: near the back and top of the head.
Touch perception, voluntary movement,
integration of senses.
Inability to attend to more than one object at a time.
Inability to name an object (Anomia). Inability to
locate the words for writing (Agraphia). Problems
with reading (Alexia). Difficulty with drawing
objects. Difficulty in distinguishing left from right.
Difficulty with doing mathematics (Dyscalculia).
Lack of awareness of certain body parts and/or
surrounding space (Apraxia) that leads to difficulties
in self-care. Inability to focus visual attention.
Difficulties with eye and hand coordination.
Occipital Lobes: Most posterior, at the back of the
head. Vision,
Defects in vision (Visual Field Cuts). Difficulty with
locating objects in environment. Difficulty with identifying
colors (Color Agnosia). Production of hallucinations.
Visual illusions - inaccurately seeing objects. Word
blindness - inability to recognize words. Difficulty in
recognizing drawn objects. Inability to recognize the
movement of an object (Movement Agnosia).
Difficulties with reading and writing.
Temporal Lobes: Side of head above ears. Hearing,
some memory, visual perception, difficulty
recognising faces,
Difficulty in recognizing faces (Prosopagnosia). Difficulty
in understanding spoken words (Wernicke's Aphasia).
Disturbance with selective attention to what we see and
hear. Difficulty with identification of, and verbalization
about objects. Short-term memory loss. Interference with
long-term memory. Increased or decreased interest in
sexual behavior. Inability to catagorize objects
(Catagorization). Right lobe damage can cause persistent
Increased aggressive behavior.
BRAIN STEM Deep in Brain, leads to spinal
Breathing Heart Rate Swallowing Reflexes to seeing and
hearing (Startle Response). Controls sweating, blood
pressure, digestion, temperature (Autonomic Nervous
System). Affects level of alertness. Ability to sleep.
Sense of balance (Vestibular Function).
CEREBELLUM Located at the base of the skull.
 Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements. Loss
of ability to walk. Inability to reach out and grab
objects. Tremors. Dizziness (Vertigo). Slurred
Speech (Scanning Speech).
 Inability to make rapid movements.
Profound changes
Three of the most significant changes of the life
cycle take place during adolescence
the ability to produce
 the establishment of an identity
 development of logical and rational thought
PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography) and
fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)
confirms what was long believed by Jean Piaget
and Maria Montessori
– a child’s mind develops in ‘fits and starts’
followed by periods of consolidation.
There appear to be times during early childhood
through to adolescence when children are highly
receptive to new information and able to gain
specific skills more easily.
Children’s brains are much busier than an
adult’s brains.
 From birth, the brain is busy setting up
At birth each neuron has 2,500 synapses.
By the age of 2 years, there are 15,000 synapses
per neuron.
During this time children absorb their
surroundings and are especially interested in
At the age of three years the first period of
consolidation begins. Children ask the question
A four year old asks a “why” question every two
and a half minutes!
Around the age of six, there is a second surge as
the brain starts to use language in increasingly
complex ways.
Up to the age of nine a child’s brain continues to
be twice as active as an adult’s brain.
At around the age of nine peer relationships seem
to predominate. (bullying increases around this
It’s at this point that we start to see the brain
gearing up for adolescence.
During the teenage years, the brain starts to slow
down to its adult running rate.
Synaptic pruning begins during the preadolescent years.
During adolescence, brain connections and
signaling mechanisms selectively change over
time to meet the needs of the environment.
Overall, gray matter volume increases at earlier
ages, followed by sustained loss and thinning
starting around puberty, which correlates with
advancing cognitive abilities.
MRI brain images show top views of the sequence of gray matter
maturation over the surface of the brain.
Researchers found that, overall, gray matter volume increased at earlier
ages, followed by sustained loss and thinning starting around puberty,
which correlates with advancing cognitive abilities.
Synaptic pruning begins during the preadolescent years.
Scientists think this process reflects greater
organization of the brain as it prunes redundant
connections, and increases in myelin, which
enhance transmission of brain messages.
This is where the brain breaks down its weakest
connections preserving only those that experience
has shown to be useful.
The synapses that carry the most messages get
stronger and the weaker, less used ones get cut
The process is much like the pruning of a tree. By
cutting back weak branches, others flourish.
As many as 30,000 synapses may be lost per
second in the early adolescent brain leading to an
ultimate loss of almost one half of the synapses
that were present in the pre-adolescent period.
The brain consolidates learning by pruning away
synapses and wrapping white matter (myelin)
around other connections to stabilize and
strengthen them.
The period of pruning is as important for brain
development as the period of growth.
The second thing that happens in adolescent’s
brains is that the frontal lobes - the part of the
brain that enables us to plan, consider, control
impulses and make wise judgments - is the last
part to develop.
Behaviour and emotion are less adequately
controlled due to a lack of synchrony between a
mature body and an immature nervous system.
As a result, young people are more likely to
engage in risky behaviours during this time.
Ronald E Dahl, from the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Centre describes it as being "… like
turbocharging an engine without a skilled
Although clinical studies show that adolescents
reach adult levels of decision-making by age 15,
they make poor decisions in real life, often with
input from peers in an emotionally charged
Dahl states that "adolescents make a lot of
decisions that the average 9 year old would say
was a dumb thing to do".
Michael Gurian, psychologist and author of
"What Could He Be Thinking?" has claimed to
identify approximately one hundred structural
differences between male and female brains in a
recent study.
 "Men,
because we tend to compartmentalize
our communication into a smaller part of the
brain, we tend to be better at getting right to
the issue, the more female brain (will) gather
a lot of material, gather a lot of information,
feel a lot, hear a lot, sense a lot."
Cell numbers: men have 4% more brain cells
than women, and about 100 grams more of brain
 “Many
women have asked me why men
need more brain tissue in order to get the
same things done”.
Men have more activity in the mechanical
centres of the brain (cerebellum and parietal
Men have better spacial skills than women
 (better hand eye coordination)
Women have more activity in the language (and
emotion and relationships) centres of the brain
(temporal lobe and cerebral cortex)
Women have better ‘sensing’ abilities (vision,
hearing, touch) and are able to merge this data.
It is reported that a woman's brain has a larger
corpus callusum, which means women can
transfer data between the right and left
hemisphere faster than men.
Men tend to be more left brained, while women
have greater access to both sides.
Even though a man seems to have more brain
cells, it is reported that women have more
dendritic connections between brain cells.
Language: for men, language is most often just
in the dominant hemisphere (usually the left
side), but a larger number of women seem to be
able to use both sides for language.
This gives them a distinct advantage.
Limbic size: bonding/nesting instincts - current
research has demonstrated that females, on
average, have a larger deep limbic system than
 Due to the larger deep limbic brain women are
more in touch with their feelings, they are
generally better able to express their feelings
than men.
Women have an increased ability to bond and be
connected to others (which is why women are the
primary caretakers for children - there is no
society on earth where men are primary
caretakers for children).
 Females have a more acute sense of smell, which
is likely to have developed from an evolutionary
need for the mother to recognize her young.
Having a larger deep limbic system leaves a
female somewhat more susceptible to depression,
especially at times of significant hormonal
changes such as the onset of puberty, before
menses, after the birth of a child and at
Women attempt suicide three times more than
 Yet, men kill themselves three times more than
women, in part, because they use more violent
means of killing themselves and men are
generally less connected to others than are
 Disconnection from others increases the risk of
completed suicides.