Know Your Brain to Train It Well

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

If you are interested in improving your brain fitness and performance the first step is to understand how the brain works. It is important to understand that different parts of the brain support different functions. This matters because when trying to train your brain, you will have to either perform a range of activities to train your whole brain or select a few specific activities to train only some functions (or brain areas). Here is some basics information to get you started.

The hemispheres
The brain weights approximately 3 pounds. It has two hemispheres (or sides). The right hemisphere controls muscles on the left side of the body and the left hemisphere controls muscles on the right side of the body.
Also, in general, sensory information (for instance information coming
from the eyes) from the left side of the body (left eye) is dealt with by the right hemisphere and information from the right side of the body (right eye) is dealt with by the left hemisphere.
More complex brain functions usually involve parts of both hemispheres and sometimes one hemisphere more than the other (such as language, which is lateralized mostly to the left hemisphere for right-handed people).

The cortex
The cortex, which literally translated means “rind” or “peel” is the outermost layer of the brain. In each hemisphere, the cortex can be divided into 4 lobes: occipital, temporal, parietal and frontal. Years of research have shown that each lobe has very specific functions.

  • The frontal lobes (in red here) are involved in motor control, emotional control, judgment, problem solving, sexual behavior, socialization, language, memory, and planning.
  • The parietal lobes (in yellow) are involved in visual attention, manipulation of objects and integration of information coming from the senses from various parts of the body.
  • The occipital lobes (in blue) are devoted to vision.
  • The temporal lobes (in green) are involved in memory (memory for language, faces and places), audition, language and object perception.

The cerebellum and brain stem
The cerebellum (the transparent blue ball here) is located at the base of the skull. It is involved in coordinating movements, and balance.
The brain stem (in purple) is located deep in the brain and leads to the spinal cord. It is involved in breathing, heart rate, reflexes, sleep, balance, digestion, blood pressure, and temperature.

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