understanding human behavior through neuroscience
What is the goal of this blog?
The goal of this blog is to briefly describe the basic terminology and principles of neuroscience (Neuroscience is a science dealing with the study of the brain) in simplified form.
Particular applications of this knowledges will be listed in another blogs dedicated to motivation, persuasion, NeuroLeadership..
Why is it good to know?
When we want to understand essence of people behaviour (ie. why individual acts in selected way, what is their motivation, how to ifluence man,..) it’s important to understand that what is responsible for the behavior of people. Largely responsible for that is brain and therefore it is important to understand the selected parts of brain function. Science-based informations in field of brain gives neuroscience and selected areas of psychology (especially the area of emotional intelligence).
Mental and physical part of the body are very closely linked and influence each other. There is a lot of informations especially in softskills (how to motivate, howto influence …), various “gurus” gives subjective(work for single man) advices or the objective(which work on larger group of people) advices but often do not justify advices (ie. why), or they are based on weak arguments (eg. unscientific, misinterpreted). Absence of understanding or misunderstanding of WHY could lead that some recommendations may work under certain conditions but with other conditions could be counterproductive. If we want to avoid reading a lot of softskills literature,articles, seminars it is necessary to understand the nature of people’s behavior justiied on the lowest and therefore the strongest level of evidence (in this case neurobiological and psychological level) which are hardly questionable.
The brain is made up of neuronal cells (neurons), “The neuron is a cell specialized in the acquisition, transmission, processing and storing of information. Informations transmit in the form of electric impulses. “Neurons are interconnected in neural network”.
Storage and selection of information from memory
-information store: Informations are stored in the memory. There are stored in neurons and their connections(neural network). With stored information brain also stores into memory more additional informations, for example: the united emotion, environment, people … connected with stored information.
-Informations have their importance in the memory. The importance depends on various factors, such as. frequency of selection of information, intensity and number of associated informations (emotions …). On the neurological level, the importance is represented by the quantity and quality of neural connections in the neural network. Unused informations losing quantity and quality of neuronal connections after time, and finally may eventually lead to its demise(oblivion).
-Select informations: It comes to retrieve of searched informations and their associated informations(ie. relevant subset of neural networks).
Distribution of brain
The brain can be simplistically divided vertically into three parts: the brainstem(popularly ‘reptile brain’), the limbic system (popularly ’emotional brain’), cerebral cortex (popularly ‘rational brain’) .
1.Brain stem (Reptile brain): is the oldest part of the brain that coordinates the basic biologic functions (such as breathing, heartbeat,..). Selected parts of the brain stem:
-thalamus: collecting input informations from the environment through the senses (except smell), then make basic prioritization and further forwards them for processing into the relevant part of the brain (such as the amygdala, hypocampus with which it is connected, …).
-hypothalamus: Controls basic functions like hunger, thrist, fatigue, sleep, controls the heat, transforms the emotions into feelings, linking the nervous and endocrine system(through pituitary) … These functions reaches by control of hormones. It detects hormone levels -> based of that increase/decrease the secretion of selected hormones into the pituitary -> pituarity releases other hormones to the target organs (specifically, to receptors on the cell surface). Brain through hormones communicate with other parts of the body which leads to the body balance (homeostasis).
2.limbic system (emotional brain): it provides emotional control, instinctive functions, long-term memory. Selected parts of the limbic system:
-amygdala: it is responsible for emotions, primarily focuses on the evaluation of and response to threats, it stores especially bad(also some good) memories and habits. Stimulus -> Fear (eg. arachnophobic spider -> fear). Human can’t control amygdala consciously, but it’s possible to suppress response to the stimulus(it is possible to learn and use techniques to suppress). Based on informations which comes from the thalamus-> amygdala gives response “attack”, “escape”, “frozen” ->These responses are sent to the hypothalamus, which in turn triggers hormones through biological changes in the body.
-hippcampus- provides spatial orientation, storage to memory and loading from memory(as you also know with searched informations are loaded also associated informations eg. emotions,..), it decide which short-term information be retained and sent them into area responsible for long-term memory. Some demage in hippcampus can’t store new informations, although the informations prior damage can be easily recalled (Eg. famous movie 50 first dates).
-nucleus accumbens- it’s the ‘reward’ center. VTA (ventral tegmental area) processes information on the extent of satisfying different needs -> these information is transmitted through the hormones (eg. Dopamine) into the nucleus accumbens -> then go to the prefrontal cortex, where it’s transformed into consciousness experiencing of different feelings.
3.Cerebral Cortex (Intellectual Brain): This is the youngest part of the brain that most distinguishes us from other living beings. It ensures higher mental functions such as abstract thinking, reasoning and planning, short-term memorization … It’s divided into several areas located in different parts of the brain such as Occipital cortex (image processing, …), Temporal lobes (responsible for abstract processes, …), language, Parietal cortex (coordination, time perception, processing information from the senses, ..) Prefrontal cortex (abstract thinking, analysis , …), Neocortex(it’s largest parto f the cerebral cortex. it’s responsible for higher functions such as sensory perception, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, language)
Neurotransmitters and hormones
Neurotransmitters and hormones are used to transfer information in the body (the information system of the human body).
Neurotransmitters are chemicals released from neuron synapsis and serves to transmit informations between neurons. Some neurotransmitters are also hormones(hormones are used to transfer information between cells through the blood). I shortly describe some of this which are very important in soft-skills applications(eg. The motivation, leadership, teambuilding, ..):
dopamine – a neurotransmitter which creates a feeling of happiness. Dopamine belong to group of ‘happy hormones’.
serotonin – a neurotransmitter that affect our mood (the higher level improve human mood, lower level deteriorate the mood sometimes in extreme could lead to depression), pain, hunger (increased level induces satiety).
endorphin – is neurotransmitter belong to the group of opioids. It effect human mood (their release makes good mood, eg. During physical activity). They are also contained in many foods (eg. Chocolate). Therefore it called the “hormone of happiness”
oxitocin – a neurotransmitter that enhances confidence, a strong bond between people (eg. Between mother and child at his birth, arise from friendship, love).
acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter affecting attention, long-term memory.
noradrenaline – a neurotransmitter formed due to stress has an impact on attention. Release of this hormone result to increased heartbeat, release of glucose into the blood, increased oxygen delivery to the brain and muscles.
Biological processes are very complex, consist of interactions, linkages between various hormones/neurotransmiters and organs. For example The human body maintains its weight by hormones that induce feelings of hunger or satiety, particularly the biological process:
body cells needs nutritions -> stomach stimulate release of ghrelin hormone and pancreas reduces the production of leptin, insulin -> certain neurons begin to form neuropeptids Y and agri relative peptide -> This will limit the production of melanocortin(ie a hormone that stimulates appetite) -> These signals are transmitted to a lateral hypothalamic nucleus, which transforms the emotion to feelings(feeling of hunger).