The human brain regulates both forms of activities - voluntary and involuntary. While a person may be aware of some functions, others continue within the body without conscious awareness. Involuntary activities like heart rate, respiration and digestion are known as lower functions of the brain. These are regularized by the autonomic nervous system. Thought, reason and decision making are complex or higher brain functions that are governed consciously.
Broadly speaking the human brain is divided into three parts that different functions:
- The forebrain that comprises of the cerebrum, thalamus and hypothalamus (part of the limbic system, which is involved in emotions) and includes several lobes of the cerebral cortex.
- The midbrain that consists of the tectum and the tegmentum
- The hindbrain or brainstem that consists of the cerebellum, pons and medulla.
The cerebrum or cortex is responsible for ‘higher’ functions like cognition, thinking, reasoning and mental focus. Individually, the four lobes of the cortex are associated with the following functions.
- Frontal Lobe - Reasoning, speech, movement, emotions and problem solving.
- Parietal Lobe - Movement, recognition, orientation and understanding inputs.
- Occipital Lobe - Visual processing.
- Temporal Lobe - Process of perceiving, collating aural inputs, memory, mental focus and speech.
The cerebellum is commonly referred to as the ‘little brain’. It regulates movement, posture and balance.
The limbic system is the emotional brain and is concealed deep in the cerebrum.
The brainstem is the simplest part of the human brain but it handles vital body functions like heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure.
There are certain misconceptions regarding brain functions promoted by legends and misinformation. Many of them have been proved wrong. Some such myths are:
- Humans use only 10% of their brain.
- Actually every part of the brain has a dedicated function.
- Mental abilities are separated into the left and right cerebral hemispheres.
- Some mental abilities are indeed localized in specific hemispheres but in the event of an inborn inability or early damage these are recovered by the other hemisphere.
On the basis of the known capabilities of the retina to process images, scientists infer that the brain processes about 100 trillion inputs per second. It may be possible for a computer to arrive at solutions to difficult mathematical equations in a fraction of a second while you struggle with a paper and pen to track each and every step. But even as you are solving the problem your brain is involved in much more. It is subconsciously processing data from millions of nerve cells and regulating heartbeat, keeping a tack on oxygen levels and lots of other critical functions while you write on the paper.
It is comparing data from all the sensory cells in the body and collating them and sending out signals in response. The mathematical problem is only being attended to by the attentive state of the brain, whilst subconsciously it is regulating the entire body and functions necessary for smooth functioning and survival.
Considering that the human brain is responsible for practically all human activity it requires nearly one third of the available energy and one fifth of the oxygen. Brain health depends equally upon how and how much you use your brain and the type of food you ingest. It is imperative that you fortify your diet with herbs and vitamins that promote mental focus, which contain antioxidants to prevent brain damage and provide enough nutrients for prolonging the efficacy of brain functions.