How much brain anatomy do you remember from high school? Forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, what do they all do again?



  • Frontal – Planning, organizing, problem solving, memory, impulse control, decision making
  • Parietal – Sensory information (hot, cold, pain), orientation (up, down), balance
  • Temporal – Sound, speech, language, memory, fear
  • Occipital – Shape and color perception, seeing, reading
  • Cerebellum – Balance, movement, coordination
  • Brain stem – Breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing

Peeling back a layer, we get to the center of our emotional life – the limbic system.

limbic system

  • Thalamus – The brain’s relay station, channeling impulses from most of the senses. Important in sorting the importance and significance of some information over others.  The “waiting room” where sensory information is sent before going to the cerebral cortex for processing.
  • Hypothalamus – Moods and motivation, sexual maturation, temperature regulation, hormones, hunger, thirst, using both electrical and chemical messages
  • Amygdala – Center of emotions and motivation
  • Hippocampus – Long term memory, best explained as your computer harddrive, involved in the storage of huge amounts of data
  • Basal ganglia – Cognition, movement coordination, voluntary movement, procedural learning, habits, decisions about how to act in a given situation

Up until twenty or thirty years ago, we thought the brain’s composition was fixed at birth. And now, we’re discovering that it’s more like a lump of clay that can be molded and changed – not just by what we learn and experience, but by how we want it to change. As an infant brain begins to grow, so do neurons, growing in length and numbers, and extending and making critical connections as we view, understand, and reciprocate our world.

Neuroplasticity, the notion that the brain is trainable at any age and can adapt, has become a ubiquitous household term. The concept is that you’re never too old (or young) to learn new things, deepen your connections, evolve beyond baggage,  develop new skills, and heal. And all this magic happens in the neurons.


Neurons make up the communication highway in our brains, through which we process, understand, and build our world and reality. Neurons are cells within the nervous system that send information to other nerve cells, muscles, or gland cells. They have a cell body, axon, and dendrites covered with synapses, which are contact points where one neuron touches another. Mammals generally have between one million and one billion (!!!) neurons.


Check out these neurons under a microscope:

neurons under scope

As homo sapiens, we’re capable of not only higher consciousness but of growing/training/evolving our brains, and that process requires care. Think stress management. Stress adversely affects almost everything in the body and mind.  Aside from our cardiovascular health, the release of cortisosteroids (hormones) inhibits brain growth, affecting our ability to learn and retain information.  Try to incorporate a few of these each week as a recipe for Brain Health:

  • Yoga – Reduces anxiety and stress and improves cognitive performance. It lifts your mood, helps regulate blood pressure and hypertension, calms your nervous system.
  • Aerobics – The release of BDNF (a protein) enhances the growth of neural connections. Weight training increases our ability to focus and make decisions, flooding the brain with mental mojo. Think SWEAT!
  • Nutrition and supplements – Try antioxidants like E and C, B-Complex for combatting stress (B6, B12, Folic acid),  Gingko, Magnesium, CoQ10.
  • Meditation as a regular practice (even just a few minutes a day) calms the mind and body, quiets the amygdala (emotions) and activates the hippocampus.
  • Sleep – Do you get enough, and roughly the same amount each night? Sleep regulates the nervous system, boosts concentration and coordination, keeps memory sharp and gives you the agility to adapt to different stresses.
  • Rest and downtime – Different from sleep but of equal importance. Try reserving 5 minutes a day for mental resting without any kind of stimulus. No reading, no TV, no iPhone, iPad, no music. Just resting quietly, breathing, with your eyes open, alert, and calm. Can’t do 5 minutes? How about 1?
  • Caffeine management – Could you take 2 days off a month to optimize its benefits?  Caffeine and in particular coffee, now comes with a short list of advantages, including the ability to store long-term memories.
  • Brain Stretch – Push the limits of your comfort zone and try new things to keep your brain active and healthy. Drive an alternate route to work. Wear your hair a different way. Write with your non-master hand. Or take a class to develop a skill you never thought you’d be able to learn. Piano lessons? Absolutely!



~ by relativitygirl on October 5, 2014.

One Response to “BrainTrain”

  1. Those images are awesome!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: