"In many respects, the lower parts of our brain and spinal cord have not changed significantly since the time of the early fishes, 100 million years ago."
Author Peter Russell
The human brain contains no less than 10 billion neurons. Each neuron can have on average about a thousand links with other neurons. Through these links, patterns are stored and retrieved through the process of conscious and subconscious thinking. The patterns tend to be stored in circular, reinforcing "circuits" by the neurons depending on how regularly the patterns are used.
Our brain needs patterns to survive
Patterns are vital to the proper functioning of the brain. If we had no patterns, our brain would not exist and we would be no different from the microbes that roam the Earth.
Patterns come in two main types:
- the well-established (or older) "survival-based" patterns stored in the older parts of the brain (and which look like lobes of brain tissue coming off the brain stem); and
- the more recent patterns learned within our lifetime and stored in the newer parts of the brain.
The well-established patterns in our brain tend to be important for maintaining our life-support systems. Whereas the patterns stored in the newer parts of our brain tend to be important for effective communication and for providing motor control information to the arms and legs for refined mobility (e.g. dancing) as well as our finer motor control in areas such as our vocal chords and certain mannerisms we display to the environment which is part of our unique personality.
The newer parts of the brain are also known to store a variety of relatively changeable patterns relating to ideas or concepts we gather and learn from our communication within ourselves and with others in the environment, and we use some of these patterns to see our environment and every living thing that lives in it in different ways so as to make more appropriate and well-thought out decisions before we implement those patterns through behaviour. We do this because we know our actions can affect certain living things, and we seek the right solution to minimise our interference or impact on other living things when we want to achieve something.
Or sometimes the problem we are dealing with is a predator and our well-established patterns take over to make us fearful. And from this the only solutions are either to fight or escape the predator because there seems to be no other alternative solution based on ideas presented to us in the newer parts of the brain.
How do we know we have got patterns in the brain?
The brain has patterns because it can organise itself as well as the environment through behaviour through these patterns. Otherwise, without patterns, we would go about doing all sorts of random things in a spontaneous manner without any purpose in life.
Perhaps the easiest way to know that we have patterns in the brain is to look for those specific patterns that have been regularly used over millions of years. The most powerful patterns tend to appear in the brain as well-defined lobes of brain tissue coming off the brain stem.
In other words, the largest and most valuable patterns of life which have proved to be vital for our survival tend to be hard-wired into the brain and these help to divide the brain into various, reasonably well-defined anatomical parts.
How is the brain divided up?
For simplicity sake, the human brain is anatomically divided into three main parts. Two of the parts form the cerebrum and are called the cerebral hemispheres, which look identical, but are not. The third part consists of the brain stem and midbrain sections.
To learn more about the human brain, let us take a closer look at the brain stem and midbrain sections...
NOTE: For a free online 3D model with sections of the brain labelled and with additional information, visit http://www.finr.net/files/brain/finr-brainAtlas-001.swf.