Brain Areas and Energy Flow
So far we have talked about energy levels and functions of the brain as if they were static or independent. We talked about areas where specific levels of activation and functions are expected to be found. It is seductive to see the brain as a machine.
Unlike any machine, though, your brain sustains constantly-interacting flows of information around numerous tasks and ongoing control functions. It is set up to operate in a tension between opposing areas and functions. As you start assessing and changing brain patterns, you recognize that your brain is a process, not a thing. In the next articles we will look at some examples of such functional flows.
In the next three articles we will talk about the opposing 2-sided structure of many parts of your brain. Mammals, amphibians and reptiles all show this pattern. We’ll focus on how the hemispheres of the cortex operate as a team rather than twins.
Most good CEO’s have advisors who present very different points of view and courses of action. As we’ll see in the upcoming chapters, the brain ideally implements this strategy within each of us. An executive may have a long-range planner and an accountant as advisors. If either one is very weak or strong, the discussion lacks balance, and the organization suffers. The two brain hemispheres see the world around us in almost opposite ways. They balance each other in a way critical to our best function.
We will also talk about three major flows of processing through the brain. We’ll look at how sensory information enters and is screened, how is integrated with previous experience and how it is synthesized from multiple sensory streams into a single unified view of our environment from instant to instant.
We will look at how emotions arise and are controlled in their flow through the brain to provide the lighting, color and musical soundtrack to the movie of our experience. As a part of this section, we’ll talk about memories and their participation in guiding our brains and decision-making.
We will look at the flow of motor impulses from their sources, how they are integrated and screened how our brains constantly compare what we actually did with what we thought we were going to do.
Finally, we will look at the newest part of the brain developmentally, the brain’s Executive Center. This area which makes us uniquely human reproduces and replaces older structures and functions in the brain. It controls what comes in and goes out from our brains, makes sense of the information it receives and determines what to do about it.
At the end of this section, we will have completed our brief overview of the trainable brain—the energy brain which is able to change itself and its habits when it is given a feedback mirror in which to see what it is doing.
A huge percentage of what we “know” about our energy brains has been discovered—or changed—since the early 1990’s, and study of the brain continues at a very high level.
Most information published in peer-reviewed articles is by definition focused on minutia or reproducing or extending what is in the literature. If you are an academic, it is likely you will have a consonant focus and may find this sort of work useful.
Most of us “learn” about the brain from media articles which take small and isolated findings and turn them into “sexy” headlines. That seems to be the function of media in the 21st century—turning the complexity of our universe (and the brain at its center) into sound-bytes. This too is probably not of much value to the trainer.
Keep an eye out for authors like Joseph LeDoux, Antonio DeMasio, Elkhonen Goldberg, Iain McGilchrist, Sebern Fisher, Bessel Van der Kolk, Allen Schore, Les Fehmi among many others. They synthesize the complex fabric of what micro-researchers are finding into sophisticated and readable understandings of flows and patterns in our brains. Their work can be of immeasurable benefit to the trainer.
Section 2 of this book will provide much more specific information on some of the key skills involved in training. It will also look at options for assessing the brain and how the actual process of training to change it works. Let’s move on to that.