Some say that outer space is the last great frontier to be explored. Others say that it is the deep sea. While both are great contenders, I believe we have just as much to learn still about the brain. It may not be as physically vast as the sea or space, but it is just as complicated, and far more relevant to our lives.
The brain has been a topic of interest, mystery, and research for almost all of human history. However, we did not know really anything about the functions of the brain until relatively recently. Ancient philosophers and anatomists largely understood that the brain plays an important role, but they often attributed its working to magical and spiritual elements. In the past, a brain disorder or tumor (if diagnosed) would be said to have been placed there by divine intervention. Science has certainly come a long way since then, but there is clearly much further to go.
The discovery of a certain area of the brain (now called Broca’s area) which controls speech production by Dr. Broca was instrumental in our understanding of the brain. It shone light on the fact that certain areas of the brain play specific roles in certain activities or actions. Other such areas include the lobes of the cerebrum. The frontal lobe controls thought and decision-making, the parietal lobe controls movement, the temporal lobe controls language, and the occipital lobe controls sight. The cerebrum is part of an even larger structure called the forebrain, which also includes the cerebellum (in charge of balance), the thalamus (sensory center of the brain), the hypothalamus, the pineal gland, and the limbic system (controls emotions and memory). There is also the midbrain and hindbrain, which mostly control critical functions such as breathing. To learn more about your brain and how to supplement it, visit Natural Healthy Concept’s Neuroscience page.
As you can tell, there are many parts within the brain, and I have only scratched the surface of those parts. However, none of these would matter without the brain’s amazing ability to communicate across all portions to synthesize information and relay action. Signaling occurs both electrically and chemically, and there are massive amounts of neurons handling the communications. The different types of touch sensations, such as temperature, pressure, vibration, stretching, etc. are all handled by different mechanoreceptors that function for specific sensory inputs. Malfunctions in receptors, neurons, or just about any part of communication can lead to breakdown and brain disorders. The systems are incredibly elaborate, and we have so much more to learn.
Learning how each specific part of the brain contributed to function birthed a discipline or theory called localization. It is quite straightforward; it posits that every piece of the brain has a specific function, and they are at the same location in every brain. The discoveries made through localization are what brought neuroscience to what it is today. However, more and more scientists are now utilizing the understanding of plasticity, which says that the brain has much more capability than we thought possible, and that localization is far from the end of the story. Through plasticity, if a certain area of the brain is damaged, it is possible for the brain to devise an entirely new pathway to recover the affected function. If we can gain a better understanding of plasticity and how to implement it as a treatment, we will be able to solve countless problems accompanying brain injuries, tumors, disorders, and more.