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Lessons

1f - Frontal Lobes

Posted by Helen St Clair Tracy in Level 1 - The Brain
Published: 04/03/2019, 12:05am | Updated: 13/03/2019, 11:14am

Video Link: https://vimeo.com/322299481

In the previous sections, we have considered parts of the brain, where visual information is processed, in many different ways, to create your visual world, that you can't consciously control.

Diagram showing the left side of the brain with the lobes where vision is processed without your conscious control, marked with black arrows.Diagram showing the left side of the brain with the lobes where vision is processed without your conscious control, marked with black arrows.

It is extremely difficult to explain the parts of our brain we can't control, because we are usually not aware of what they are doing.

As you read these words, try to think how it is that you understand them. Are you able to not understand them? Each word is processed, so as you are looking at the words, the visual information goes through your eyes to your brain, and the picture of the words is matched with the words you know (have remembered), so you are able to read this. But you don't have to stop at every word, and process each one, do you? Your brain is computing it so fast that you can read seamlessly. If, however, we introduced an unusual word, maybe antediluvian, as your brain processes it, it slows down or pauses, there is no match in your temporal lobe (apart from those who know what it means - it's a term relating to the period before Noah's flood from the Bible). This is a very simple example of the many tasks your brain undertakes, feeding your conscious brain, so that you can do things, and make sensible choices and stay safe.

Conscious brain

Your choice to read these words, and continue to read them, right now, as you are reading them, is being processed in the conscious part of your brain, which is your frontal lobes.

Diagram showing left side of the brain with the frontal lobe, coloured blue and indicated with a black arrow.Diagram showing left side of the brain with the frontal lobe, coloured blue and indicated with a black arrow.

But, the actual processing of the words so that you are able to understand them, you aren't aware of, it is non-conscious, unless you stop and really think about it, as we tried to get you to do with the word antediluvian.

Your brain is constantly processing information, combining:

  • what it is being fed from what you are experiencing, including what you are looking at, and what you can see (the two are different, we will come to that later), what you are listening to and what you can hear, and other information across your other senses, with...
  • ...your memories from all of your previous experiences, and...
  • ...how you are feeling, and...
  • ...a whole lot of processes that are pre-built into your brain, particularly to help keep you safe, but also to help you learn and make sense of your world.

This information, once processed is fed to the conscious part of your brain, in the frontal lobes. It is also sometimes called the 'control centre'. Imagine you are steering a great ship...

you have your steering wheel and some controls, but are supported by great engines and boilers, propellers and the craftsmanship of the vessel. Maybe the brain can be thought of as a bit like that, the above image is all you are aware of, but it is only a part of the whole vessel (below).

Whilst you have conscious control, your brain, just like the ship, is supported by many different processes you can't control, but completely rely upon.Whilst you have conscious control, your brain, just like the ship, is supported by many different processes you can't control, but completely rely upon.

The brain processes, together, serve many purposes, including:

  • To keep you safe
  • To make sense of things
  • To help you learn
  • To identify things

Checklist

Before you move on to the next lesson, please check:

  • You understand the difference between the conscious areas of the brain, and areas you have no conscious control over.
  • You know which of the lobes is conscious.
  • You are developing an understanding of how the different areas of the brain work together and support each other.

Next lesson: Level 1g The Brain - Conclusion

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