Whatever we see, think or do everything is controlled by our brain. Even the autonomic processes like breathing, heart beating and blinking of eyes, everything is controlled by our brain. Just like the president is the supreme power of a nation likewise brain is the president of our body that controls every action taking place in our body whether voluntarily or autonomously. There is a constant flow of information around us. All information that is present around is processed by our brain. Whatever information is not required is discarded off, information that may be required at a later stage is stored for future reference, information that is obvious and we are used to, is ignored by the brain. But now the most important thing is that how is this information managed? To understand in a better way we should know how brain perceives information?
How brain functions?
The functioning of brain can be understood better by knowing the structure of brain. Brain is a specialized organ that controls our body by forming a co-ordination between all the vital processes of the body. There are specialized centres in brain that control the functioning of specific organs or vital processes.
Structure of brain
Brain is located inside our skull or head. It is made up of white and grey matter and has cerebrospinal fluid in it. Brain needs maximum oxygen in our body as it is the regulatory centres for all vital functions of the body. The brain consists of two cerebral hemispheres - the right and left cerebral hemisphere. The two halves of the brain function independently and are connected by corpus callosum. The functions such as consciousness, memory storage, communication and control of motor activities are carried out independently by both the hemispheres. All the specialised functions are carried out by different specialised areas of the brain with the co-ordination between them through various pathways. Some of the specialised areas of the brain are as follows
- Frontal lobe: Frontal lobe is involved in creative thought process, problem solving, planning complex movements and elaboration of thought process. It also plays an important role in behaviour, attention, judgement and abstract thinking.
- Parietal Lobe: It helps in processing sensory information for body movement, orientation, recognition.
- Occipital Lobe: It is associated with visual recognition and vision.
- Temporal Lobe: It controls hearing, learning, memory area and emotions.
- Sensory cortex: Sensory cortex perceives information from spinal cord regarding various sensory organs. It helps perceives pain, pressure and touch.
- Motor cortex: It helps to control the movement of the body and forming a motor coordination.
- Wernicke’s area: This area of the brain is most important in comprehending and understanding speech. It also helps in understanding music, visual patterns, spatial patterns and voice intonations.
- Broca’s area: It helps in word formation and understanding speech and language.
- Cerebellum: It helps control balance, posture and coordination and weight balancing and movement.
- Amygdala: This is the portion of the brain that deals with emotions, memories and fear.
- Hippocampus: This is the portion of brain that deals with memories and converting short term memories into long term memories, it also analyses and remembers spatial relationships.
- Hypothalamus: This is the region of brain that deals with feeling and regulation of hunger, thirst and temperature.
- Thalamus: It helps regulate attention span and pain sensation.
- Midbrain: It helps regulate body movement, vision and hearing.
- Pons: It helps regulate posture and movement. It also helps in regulating consciousness.
- Medulla: This part of the brain maintains the vital body functions such as heart rate and breathing.
How is information managed?
There is a constant flow of information all around us, the noise of moving cars, phone ringing, sun shining, and feeling of hot or cold, if our minds attempted to remember all this information, it would surpass the memory capacity of the brain. The brain has highly developed systems that are as fast as a computer. All the information that is perceived is encoded consolidated and recalled in fractions of seconds. The information that is new to us is stored with a new synaptic pathway or a memory trace.
Positive and negative memories
Have you ever noticed that you often unintentionally tend to overlook small things that you encounter daily? Here is the answer for you; the information that is used again and again is stored with an individual memory trace as habituation. It may also be termed as negative memory. Every time you encounter this habituated information your brain learns to ignore it.
Now when we already know why we often tend to overlook trivial things that we encounter daily, we can better understand why we remember the colour of the dress, fragrance of the perfume and the feelings related to a special event. Any information that brings pain or pleasure is automatically stored by the brain as a positive memory.
The limbic system of the brain which deals with emotions learns to evaluate the perceived information so as to classify them as important and not important. It is based on reward and punishment principle. The information that brings pain, aversion or negative thoughts evokes the punishment centre; whereas the information that causes happiness, sense of reward, pleasure and motivation which evokes the reward centre. The feel and motivation or suppression of moods is what causes the brain to remember these experiences as good or bad and creation of their memory trace.
Short term and long term memory
The formation of memory traces ensures the storage of information in memory. The repeating of that information causes the permanent formation of memory trace and hence converting into long term memory. The conversion of short term memory into long term memory depends on the consolidation and reconsolidation of memory. The more we recall information more it is imbibed in long term memory.
Now when the information has been perceived, encoded and stored now what is most important is the recall of the information. The part of brain that is responsible for recall of information is thalamus. Thalamus helps in searching and recalling the memories.
So now when you know how all the information is managed, you can now channelize your thoughts and work on them to retain most of the information for a long term use. Some people are surely born genius and they have better memory but when you know how is information perceived and managed; you can work on these skills and have a better memory.