The brain is the command center of your body. Thousands of signals from the outside are reaching it every second, and based on these signals it determines a course of action and issues commands which are then carried out by other parts of the body.
Much of this happens on the subconscious level, but the brain also carries out activities of which you are conscious. This means that you have a choice and need to make a decision on what to do next.
What separates the mammals from other types of animals such as reptiles, amphabians or fish, is the fact that they have an enlarged part of the brain called the cerebrum.
Your Monkey Brain
One group of mammals has a cerebrum that is much larger than the other groups. These are the primates, a group that includes monkeys, apes such as our close cousins the chimpanzees, but also humans.
This allows them to do much more than just work based on instinct. If you have ever watched a documentary on wolves, then you have seen that they can make pack strategies, for example when hunting.
Monkeys are even more sophisticated than that. They have most of the basic wiring that humans have. Monkeys have shown the ability to come up with complex strategies and also to make rational choices.
Smart Chimp: “I am completely ignoring your BS!“
The cerebrum is located at the top of the head and is the biggest part of your (or a monkey’s) brain. It is separated into two hemispheres, a right and a left one.
The right hemisphere is said to be tied more to creativity, while the left hemisphere is more tied to logic. Also in an interesting twist, the right hemisphere controls the left side of your body and the left hemisphere the right side.
The two hemispheres are tied together by a bundle of neural fibers called the corpus callosum. It facilitates communication between the two sides of the brain.
The top of the cerebrum is covered by what is called the cerebral cortex. This is a thin layer of grey-matter, which is densely packed with neurons. Much of the thinking that your brain does happens here.
What helps the cortex to pack so much thinking power is the fact that it is made up of many ridges. These ridges divide up the cortex into many parts and each one is responsible for different functions within the brain.
The cerebrum itself is divided into four lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe. This is where the action takes place.
If you see a bunch of lights flying fast at night, you might interpret them as being UFOs coming to Earth from another solar system. The activity you just performed is called reasoning.
You get some sort of an input from the outside and your brain tries to make sense of it based on some internal rules that it has.
Whether it is whack or logical, this type of action takes place in the frontal lobe. This part of the brain is the seat of weird conspiracy theories, but also of critical thinking.
Take the classical example of deductive reasoning:
“All men are mortal.”
“Socrates is a man.”
“Therefore Socrates is mortal.“
You arrived at a conclusion based on logic.
In the frontal lobe, you can come up with ground-breaking theories of quantum physics, but also theories of a Grey and Reptilian alien-conglomerate controlling all the politicians of this planet. The mental steps that take you from a basic assumption to a solution happen here.
At the moment what you are doing is reading. Your eyes are scanning the screen, looking at the letters, combining them into words and sentences and giving meaning to them. This ability is thanks to the processes happening in the parietal lobe.
This lobe processes visual information and the act of reading is basically looking at symbols in front of you, taking them in, creating patterns between them and based on these patterns interpreting what it sees in front of its eyes.
Basically, these patterns (words being strings of symbols called letters) create thoughts in your brain which then helps you process information.
It works in a similar way with interpreting mathematical symbols and helping you count. This lobe is also involved in basic arithmetic and calculations. On a more abstract level, drawing is also governed by the parietal lobe.
It also lets you perceive depth. What happens is that the lobe helps your brain build a 3-D plane of the outside world and so helps you understand all the spacing around you. This is very important if you want to orient yourself and also manipulate objects.
Processing visual signals and interpreting them as meaning is just one of the things the parietal lobe does. It also interprets other senses and lets you understand what is happening in the world around you.
For example, through your sense of touch, you can feel that it is cold outside. This type of knowledge about the outside world happens in the parietal lobe.
The parietal lobe is involved in the processing of different sensory information from the outside, things like touch and pain, temperature, as well the intensity of each.