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
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.
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 Brainline.org and resultize.com