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A Guide on Basic Brain Facts

This post might look unusually scientific to you. But I am actually starting a new category on human behavior including its influence on the brain. And the other way around. To start this I thought some basics might be of interest.


The brain is the center of the human nervous system, controlling thoughts, movements, memories and decisions. It is very complicated and many of its interesting properties are still not well understood by scientists.

The brain makes up just 2% of the body’s weight but it uses around 20% of its blood and around 20% of all the breathed oxygen.


Basic Brain structure

  • One brain Cell = A neuron
  • Many neurons make a neural circuit
  • Many circuits make a brain system


Examples of brain systems can be found at the end of this guide!


Communication between Neurons

The brain contains billions of neurons that send and receive information around the body.

They connect and communicate with each other. Throughout our whole life, the neurons are able to make new connections (all kinds of learning) and to break old connections (e.g. de-learning responses to fear).





  • Remember: A neuron is one cell (even a very specialized one)
  • Dendrites receive signals from other neurons. They branch off from the cell body.
  • Axon sends signals to other neurons. Axons can grow towards another neuron which makes them vary from one inch to several feet long.
  • Between the axon of one neuron and the dendrite of another neuron is a gap called synapse.
  • Signals jump over the gap using neurotransmitter.




The chain of signals

Once a brain cell received a signal at its dendrite, the signal runs through the cell to the end of the axon where it sends neurotransmitter to jump over the gap the dendrite of another brain cell. From there the signal runs through the new cell to the end of the axon, uses neurotransmitter to jump over the gap, and so on. The chain goes on until a desired function in the body is stimulated.

Real brain cells

real ive neuron

Red is the nucleus inside the cell body. The dendrites are branching off.



A neurotransmitter is a chemical produced by a neuron to help the communication between the neurons. Different neurons produce different neurotransmitters; which results in different effects.



Brain Systems/ Brain Regions

Many specialized brain systems work across specific brain regions to help us talk, help us make sense of what we see, and help us to solve a problem. Some of the brain regions are listed below.


brain regions



Smaller brain systems are just as important as the bigger ones. They include:


 Amygdala: danger and fear,  emotional events, long-term memory, learning from pleasure responses.



Hypothalamus: body temperature, hunger or thirst, controls many hormones that we need to function.



Hippocampus: memory and new memories, orientation, navigation

The science behind habit change

Basal Ganglia and Prefrontal Cortex:

  • Habits are stored inside the Basal Ganglia and happen automatically and unconsciously.
  • Conscious decisions and willpower are made in the Prefrontal lobe.
  • The two can have a conflict.



  • Happiness is the benefit and reward we gain from doing a habit.
  • Dopamine (C8H11NO2) is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.



  • Hypothalamus measures glucose in the blood and regulates hunger and thirst.
  • This can lead to uncontrolled food cravings and mess up our weight loss habits. 




I hope the information was interesting and helpful enough and you can use them for future posts.

Do you have any questions?


Pictures are courtesy of National Institute of Mental Health and and

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Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

David Hartshorne - October 23, 2015

Hey Ilka

I liked this new category and article. The illustrations are excellent and you’ve explained things so simply for poor scientists like me.

– David
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    simplyilka - October 23, 2015

    Hi David!

    I am truly glad you understood and liked the post. I hope this will help with other posts about the brain and behavior. Illustrations can help a lot while explaining.

    Thanks again and I hope you are alright!
    Best, Ilka

Ella - October 23, 2015

Hi Ilka!

Thanks for this post and for the thoughts on fear of failure you sent to your list. I enjoyed reading them and thought they were all really helpful.

This scientific post was a nice change. I was actually able to understand it all. I also learned something new. Can’t wait for your new posts…

    simplyilka - October 23, 2015

    Thank you for your kind words and the feedback Ella.

    I am glad you learned something and you were able to understand it all. That means a lot to me 🙂

    Thank you also for your feedback on my sign-in report 🙂

    Have a great day, Ilka

Manidipa - October 25, 2015

Hi Ilka,

This is my first time to your blog & I am happy that it’s with a simple to understand yet very informative post.

Your blog post reminded me of my high school days 🙂 But it’s really refreshing to go through the concepts as a blog post. I really liked the way you made each & everything clear about the basic brain details.

Thanks for sharing. Take care 🙂
Manidipa recently posted…By: ManidipaMy Profile

    simplyilka - October 25, 2015

    Hi Manidipa!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and a big warm welcome.

    I am glad you liked the post and I do understand that it reminded you of your high school days 😉

    I am always happy to hear that people can easily understand.

    Take care and I am happy to be in touch,

ikechi - October 26, 2015

Hi Iika

This is a great new category and I would love to know more about the brain. It is good you started by defining the basics.

Looking forward to more posts about brain facts.

Thanks for sharing

    simplyilka - October 26, 2015

    Thanks for your comment Ikechi!

    Our rain is truly fascinating. Sometimes we don’t really realize how much influence we actually have over our brain.

    I am glad you liked the post.
    Take care, Ilka

Rachel - October 26, 2015

Hey IIka,

Your post was a good refresher. I remember the neurons and know what they do but I never remember the stems (dendrites) or the rest for that fact.

I have always been fascinated by the workings of the brain, well haven’t so many. Scientists are still attempting to work it all out. But you know what, I don’t think they will, not completely.

When I did my massage course I did two units on anatomy and physiology and I have attempted over the years to dabble in the brain a bit more – however it is a dry subject. Thanks for the basics, I look forward to your next post.


    simplyilka - October 26, 2015

    Hi Rachel!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am glad you could remember the anatomy of the brain from your massage courses. It is a difficult topic and you are right; there is so much scientists don’t know and understand yet. And probably never will 🙂

    I am also still amazed by the way the brain works. It is fascinating, isn’t it?

    All the best and talk soon, Ilka

Jaco Alberts - October 26, 2015

Very interesting information.

What I also find interesting is what you mention about de-learning responses to fear. I recently listened to an interview with neuro-scientist dr. Caroline Leaf, where she referred to fear as a learned response.

I really enjoyed this post and I’m looking forward to read more.

Thank you, Ilka.

Have a great day,

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    simplyilka - October 26, 2015

    Hi Jaco!

    Thanks for your comment. That is very interesting. I think there is fear that helps us survive, like the one we have when we see a lion. But the fear that is going on in our imagination can surly be learned by copying others or experiences.

    Thanks, Ilka

Sherri Matthews - October 28, 2015

Hi Ilka! This is a wonderful category, I learn so much from you. I have been doing my own research here and there on studies taking place on the way the brain works differently in those on the autistic spectrum. It’s interesting that those not on the spectrum are refered to as ‘neurotypicals’ isn’t it? There is no doubt that increasing evidence shows that there are profound differences which explains why those, like my daughter, suffer, for instance, from travel sickness, react differently to medication, are more likely to suffer increased anxiety and also struggle, in some cases, with gender issues. I find this all fascinating, you explain as always, in such understandable and interesting ways your scientific knowledge, and I am so looking forward to reading more of your wonderful series, thank you so much for this!
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    simplyilka - October 29, 2015

    Thank you Sherri!

    I am always grateful for your encouraging words. The brain and its influence on behavior is absolutely fascinating and I am keep being amazed myself.

    Your daughter’s story made me think. Isn’t it interesting that real differences have been found in the brain that, as a result, affect and explain some of the behavior autistic people show? You caught my interest now. I guess I will read a little about the brain and autism myself.

    All the best to you, Ilka

3 simple tips how to make and break a habit - December 19, 2016

[…] lives easier and help our survival. They are located in the so-called basal ganglia (see my post on basic brain facts for more […]

How Dopamine works in favor of our Reward System - January 26, 2017

[…] It’s one of our so-called ‘feel good’ chemicals. It’s a really tiny neurotransmitter that jumps between our nerve cells and activates them. […]

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