The Human Brain, Part 1 of a Series

Before getting into information about the brain, so it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time in a medical dictionary, we need to define some words and brain growth patterns. 

Neurons, cells that communicate events in and outside the body.  Axons, cell fibers of a neuron that carry information away.  Dendrites, receptors on neurons. Synapse, chemical bridges from one neuron to another. Reptilian brain, the first part of the total human brain to develop from conception and evolution.  The limbic brain is the second to develop as we grow.  The neo-cortex is the third portion of the brain to develop both in growth and during evolution.  Humans are the only species to have this section of the total brain. The frontal lobe is the area of the neo-cortex associated with synthesis of ideas, compassion and altruism.  The parietal lobe is area of the neo-cortex connected to synthesis of information and storage of all items of sensory perception (touch, smell, etc.)  The temporal lobe of the neo-cortex area is connected with auditory and olfactory function.  The occipital lobe is connected with visual functions.  The motor cortex where all motor functions begin.  Sensory cortex, where all sensory functions are received and deciphered.  Myelin is a fatty insulation around neurons and axons.  The cerebellum is the balance and coordination area of the brain. The right (gestalt) brain hemisphere is associated with creativity, movement, intuition, and subjective reasoning.  The left (logic) brain hemisphere is connected with organization, language, linear function and objective reasoning.  The corpus callosum is a bundle of nerve fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres.  The sympathetic nervous system is associated with body stress, survival and fight or flight.  The parasympathetic system is associated with relaxed body functioning.

Brain growth and learning occur in spurts, separated by plateaus.  There are always variables, but most fall within these parameters.  On an oscilloscope, brain growth rhythms appear like long ocean swells with peaks and troughs.  Hang on to this and you’ll see how it matches with the evolutionary brain development phases.

Between pre-natal and 15 months there’s a growth spurt in the sensorimotor area involving crawling, walking and finding out how the body works, and is  followed by a plateau to 2 years.  From 2 to 4 years a growth spurt occurs in what’s termed the pre-operational area, getting it all together and figuring out how to best breakdown your parents willpower and assault the next phase of life, this is where the phrase “terrible two’s” originates.  From 4 to 6 years there’s a plateau and a mellower period of reflection on what didn’t work.  From 6 to 8 years a growth spurt occurs in the “concrete” operational area.  From 8 to 10, we’re back in “a figure out what went wrong and why it didn’t work plateau.”  From 10 to 12 we enter another spurt called the “formal operational” period.  Uh-oh, puberty ahead.  From 12 to 14 years we plateau secure in the timeframe that we know all, see all and that the world revolves around us.  From 14 to 16, if we’ve developed beyond 14, we enter a problem finding growth spurt.  We find out we have problems, that maybe we don’t know all and we try to find out what the problems are.  Again, this only happens if we’ve made it past the terrible two’s and the “know all 14’s”.  From 16 to 22 we plateau during which time we do extreme sports, video games and no-brainer activities while we try to figure out what went wrong with the other phases.  By 22 most of us enter the refinement and continued development stage where we hone the skills that haven’t worked to a fine edge, or consider other possibilities that may prove more valuable.  At 40+ most of us enter the stage that will last the rest of our lives.  Brain researchers call it “continued development of problem finding skills” whatever that means.

During the doing business phase of my brain development, I preferred the 40+ group.  They were generally mellower, knew if they’d made it or weren’t going to, and were more secure with where they were headed and who they were.  Unfortunately, there is a large percentage of people who never make it past the two’s and 14’s.