When we think of the brain, we are bound to think of specific areas that control different things, such as areas for thinking, areas for talking, areas for seeing, feeling, and areas for the processes that we don’t have to think about. The brain is a very complex organ that still isn’t completely understood.
The brain weighs about 3 pounds, and it is the most complex biochemical machine; it is much more complex than any manmade computer. The brain with all its collective parts is made up of billions of neurons. The neurons are specialized for each part of the brain and they create pathways for bioelectrical impulses to control the emotions and functions of the mind and body.
Where do our emotions come from?
There are many systems within the brain that share in the different processes of our conscious and unconscious mind. Many parts of the brain are involved with showing and processing human emotions. The parts of the brain that will be discussed today will be the prefrontal cortex, the deep limbic system, the anterior cingulated gyrus, the temporal lobes and the basal ganglia. There are many other areas of the brain that are involved with emotions and behavior, but the focus will be on these specific parts of the brain.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is located in the front area of the brain; this is the part of the brain called the frontal lobes. This is the area of the brain where our emotional control, judgment and insight comes from. The PFC is also the area of the brain where our impulse control originates; this area of the brain also allows us to make plans. For instance, if you want to plan how you will manage your finances to retire early, the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that allows you to do this. A person who is thoughtful, empathetic, and conscientious has a highly functioning prefrontal cortex. Conversely, a person who is antisocial, always disorganized and not able to focus on any type of task may have low activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. A person, who suffers from anxiety, is impulsive and frequently inflexible may have a prefrontal cortex that is over-stimulated.
Deep Limbic System
The deep limbic system (DLS) is located is a very small area in the central area of the brain; it is approximately the size of a walnut. The deep limbic system is the area that we call our mind’s eye. When you can recall pictures in your mind, the DLS is the area in the brain allowing you to experience this.
The limbic system contains the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala and the hippocampus and other structures. The physical and biochemical activity in this system allows us to react to our environment and express our emotions. This area of the brain stores very strong emotions; these emotions can be happy, traumatic and very sad emotions. The important things that affect us in a highly emotional way can set our general mood for the day. For instance, if you get bad news, this can set the mood for the day where you feel that everything you do comes out wrong. On the other hand, if you receive happy news, your mood may be set where you feel on top of the world. Many of the emotions we experience are controlled by the amygdala, which is located deep within the limbic system. The limbic system is also the place where our sexual desire comes from.
Anterior Cingulated Gyrus
The anterior cingulated gyrus (ACG) is located along the central area of the frontal lobes. This area is behind the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that allows you to change directions in your thought process. When you have a change of mind about something, this is the area of the brain that allows you to do this. The ACG allows you to mentally shift gears. People who are cooperative and can adapt to changes easily have a healthy and balanced anterior cingulated gyrus. Conversely, people who hold grudges against others, people who feel unsafe in perfectly safe situations, and those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder may have an imbalance in the anterior cingulated gyrus area of the brain. People who become addictive behavior may also suffer from an imbalance in the ACG system of the brain.
The temporal lobes are part of the two hemispheres that are located in the areas located behind the eyes and extend out to the temples on both sides of the brain. The temporal lobes help to stabilize our moods; they also control memory. This area of the brain allows us to understand language. If we are learning a new language, the temporal lobes help us to do that. The temporal lobes allow us to recognize objects. For instance, we can see a ball and know it is a ball because our temporal lobes recognized the object as a ball. Our intuition and sensory perception comes from the right temporal lobe. Individuals who feel they have psychic abilities may have a highly active right temporal lobe. This is the area of the brain that is sometimes called the God center or God Spot. People who are not religious and those who are deeply religious may have different activity levels in their temporal lobes. If there is an imbalance in the temporal lobes, an individual may become aggressive and angry very easily.
The basal ganglia (BG) are specialized neurons that surround the limbic system in the brain. The BG coordinates our movements with the stimuli that come into our thoughts and awareness. For instance, you hear a noise that scares you, you might freeze where you are and listen for sounds of danger, or you might jump when someone or something startles you.
The basal ganglia are the neuronal network area of the brain that allows us to feel pleasure and ecstasy, anxiety and tension. People, having low activity in the basal ganglia may experience movement disorders and feel unmotivated to start and complete tasks. People, having high activity in the basal ganglia may suffer from addictions, they may be workaholics, and experience the discomforts associated with anxiety and panic disorders.
The brain is such a complex organ that one article could not possibly scratch the surface of its purpose and function. Many of us believe there is more to us than flesh, bone and nerve fibers. Many of us believe we have a human spirit that is part of us. So far, scientists have not proven the existence of a spiritual being within us, but they have located a part of the brain that allows us to have religious beliefs. A future article will discuss the brain and something we call the spirit.
The God Spot and the Frontal Lobe
The Limbic System
Basal Ganglia and Emotions
How the Brain Works