dissabte, 12 de novembre de 2011

The Human Mind (III) - The Onion Brain

Most of us identify with the voice inside our head that’s constantly commenting about the world around us. That voice is sometimes electric with excitement, but more often it’s uncertain, concerned, or scared. Fortunately, “you” are not that voice.

“You” are only a small part of your brain. The voice in your head is just a radio announcer, commenting on what your brain is doing automatically. It is not you—your consciousness is actually what your brain uses to solve problems it can’t handle on autopilot.

Since human behavior has its roots in the brain, it’s very useful to understand how your brain is actually constructed. Here’s a brief look at how your brain works.

Think of the Brain as an Onion, it has several layers, which sit on top of one another:

Ø  At the core is a structure called the hindbrain, which is essentially responsible for keeping you alive. The hindbrain is responsible for all of the physiological functions necessary for survival: heart rate, sleeping, waking, reflexes, muscle movements, and biological urges. Located at the base of the brain, the hindbrain is sometimes called the “lizard brain” because this basic neurological structure appears in all of our biological precursors, including reptiles and amphibians. The hindbrain is primarily responsible for generating signals that are passed down through your spinal cord and nerves to every part of your body, resulting in your physical actions.
Ø  Above your hindbrain is the midbrain, which is responsible for processing sensory data, emotion, memory, and Pattern Matching. Our midbrains are constantly (and automatically) predicting what will happen next, then sending that information to the hindbrain, which readies our body for immediate action. The midbrain is the radio announcer, and the hindbrain is the radio.
Ø  Sitting just above the midbrain is a thin, folded layer of tissue—the forebrain. This small sheet of neural matter is responsible for the cognitive capabilities that make us distinctly human: self-awareness, logic, deliberation, Inhibition, and Decision.

Developmentally speaking, the forebrain is very new, and likely evolved to help us handle ambiguity. Most of the time, our midbrain and hindbrain run the show—we’re operating on instinct and autopilot. That changes, however, when we face something unexpected or unfamiliar, which confounds the midbrain’s ability to predict what will happen next. That’s when the forebrain kicks into gear, gathering data and considering options. After some deliberation and analysis, the forebrain decides what to do based on what appears to be best at the time. Once a Decision is made, the midbrain and hindbrain assume normal operation and carry out the decision.

One of the best things you can do to get more done is to dissociate yourself from the voice in your head. The radio announcer has the attention span of a two-year-old after drinking a triple espresso. Its job is to highlight things in your environment you may be interested in paying attention to—things that may fulfill one of your Core Human Drives or present some danger. That doesn’t mean the voice is always right, or that you must take everything it says as gospel truth. Meditation is a simple practice that can help you separate “you” from the voice in your head. There’s nothing mystical or magical about meditation—you simply breathe and watch what your “monkey mind” does without associating yourself with it. After a while, the voice becomes quieter, improving your ability to keep yourself on the course you choose. A few moments of quiet meditation every day can be the difference between feeling scared and overwhelmed and feeling in control of your destiny.

The Personal MBA, Master the Art of Business - Josh Kaufman

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