Brain Parts & Neurotransmitters
Lawyers have a working knowledge of the law and legal systems, physicians have a working knowledge of anatomy, physiology, disease, and medication, naturopaths have an in-depth understanding of the body, nutrition, and nutrients, and chiropractors are experts on the spinal column and spine. Shouldn't teachers have a working knowledge and basic understanding of the brain, its parts, its relationship with the body and how it learns?
The brain is made up of 100 billion neurons, is roughly made of 78-80% water, 10-12% fat, 8-10% protein, and on average weighs about 3 pounds.
- Cerebral Cortex - thick outer covering, has many folds and convolutions which gives it a large surface area, makes about 70% of the nervous system, made of 1,000,000 miles of nerve cells
- Cerebrum – the largest part of the brain, divided into 2 hemispheres (right & left) and each hemisphere is divided into 4 lobes (Occipital, Frontal, Parietal and Temporal)
- Frontal Lobe AKA Prefrontal Cortex – forehead, involved in movement, memory, language, social behavior, problem-solving, planning, and decision-making
- Parietal lobe – middle top back of the head, involved sensory information of touch, pressure, temperature, pain, and language comprehension
- Temporal lobe – right and left sides of the head, involved in hearing, memory, speech, language, meaning, and visual recognition
- Occipital lobe - back of the head processes visual information, controls visual perception, color recognition, sends information to parietal and temporal lobes
- Corpus callosum - connects the left and right hemispheres and helps them communicate, made of 25 million nerve fibers
- Basal Ganglia – involved in learned skills, above limbic system on both sides of the thalamus
- Thalamus - deep inside the brain, relay station for senses, hearing, movement, retrieval of
- A connection of structures (hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus). Involved in emotion, sleep, attention, body regulation, hormones, sexuality, smell & production of chemicals.
- Hippocampus – in the temporal lobe, involved in learning & memory
- Amygdala – in the midbrain – temporal lobe, involved in emotion & memory, processes senses, connected to the hippocampus
- Hypothalamus- bottom center of the midbrain, involved in appetite, hormones, digestion, circulation, emotions, sleep
- Cerebellum - below occipital area, involved in cognition, emotions, coordinates body movement, maintains balance & posture
- Lower part of the brain (midbrain, pons, medulla) reptilian brain, connected to the spinal cord, links with midbrain and cerebral hemispheres, involved in cardiac and respiratory functions, involved in survival/stress response
- Medulla - in the brainstem, relays information between hemispheres and spinal cord, controls respiration, circulation, heart rate, and breathing
- Pons - near the top of the brainstem, relay station for sensory information
- Adrenal Glands – not in the brain but work closely, on top of kidneys, secrete adrenaline when signaled by the brain, essential to fight/flight stress response
- Neurons – have a cell body, an axon & dendrites, information flows from one to another by connecting with brain chemicals at the synapse (space between axon of one neuron and dendrites of another)
- Myelin – fatty layer that speeds transmission formed on axons when they are used over and over again (with practice & repetition), reduces interference, make retrieval of information easier
- Glial Cells – another type of brain cells, no cell body, support and protection for neurons, hold neurons in place, help supply oxygen and nutrients, remove or clean up dead neurons
- Blood supplies the brain with oxygen, glucose, and protein, 20% of the body's oxygen used by the brain
- Chemical messengers sent into the synapse by an electrical charge in the axon, released at the synaptic gap to communicate with dendrites of another neuron, impacted heavily by exercise, nutrition, and state management tools, levels of the different neurotransmitters have a profound effect on emotion, perception, memory, alertness, and energy
- GABA - inhibits the firing of neurons, important in learning and memory
- Glutamate - excitatory neurotransmitter, involved in learning and memory
- Dopamine - involved in conscious and emotional response and basis of the brain's natural reward system, associated with positivity,
- Endorphin – released by the pituitary gland, protects against excessive pain
- Epinephrine ( a.k.a. adrenaline) – involved in survival or stress response, fear, excitement, released by the adrenal gland into the bloodstream, in the liver stimulates the release of glucose for quick energy
- Serotonin – brain balancer, involved in arousal, temperature regulation, sensory perception, regulates melatonin, involved in relaxing, mood, emotions, learning and memory, affected by exercise, eggs, lean meat contains L-tryptophan which helps make serotonin
- Norepinephrine/noradrenaline – arousal, involved in fight or flight stress response, metabolic rate, blood pressure, and mood
- Acetylcholine – involved in long term memory, high levels during sleep
- Factors - A group of proteins essential to the building of brain cells and efficient functioning
- BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) - a protein that builds nerve cells and keeps them working efficiently
- IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor) works with insulin to deliver glucose to working muscles and brain.
- VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and FGF (fibroblast growth factor) both help with neurogenesis (building bigger/more connected neurons).
How can we be purposeful in applying what we know about how the brain works to increase motivation and learning?
2 Minute Neuroscience provide short videos and are an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning a bit about how the brain works in a short periods of time.