How the Brain is Built
Think of your brain is a type of super computer with hardware (which represents the structure of the brain) and software (which represents the software – the internal goings on).
The brain sits in a cavity of the skull, a bony structure called the cranium which is designed to protect it from injury.
The brain contains a left and right hemisphere which is separated by a thick bundle of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum. A central role of the corpus callosum is sending messages and permitting communication between the left and right parts of the brain. There are many different parts of the brain, but the oldest most primitive part of the brain is called the brainstem which contains the medulla (which means long marrow in Latin), pons (bridge) and cerebellum or little brain. The midbrain (also known as the mesencephalon) is the region that lies immediately on top of your brainstem. The forebrain (also known as the diencephalon) is the part of the brain which mushrooms out so it covers and surrounds much of the older “tubular brain”. Here you will find 2 regions called the thalamus and hypothalamus. The remainder of the forebrain is called the telencephalon or the endbrain which contains the cerebral cortex.
The cerebral cortex is considered the part of the brain that makes us uniquely human – it is the site of the mind (or consciousness if you like) and is involved in aspects of memory, learning, language, movement, touch and vision. It also plays an important role in helping us plan and organize, to think ahead, understand the consequence of our actions and to engage in abstract thought. In other words, exactly what you are doing now reading this – the ability to think about and understand the function of the brain.
The cerebral cortex contains 4 lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital. The frontal lobes are at the front of your brain, the temporal are to the left and right of your eyes close to the temples, the parietal lobes are in the mid part of your brain towards the back and the occipital which makes up your visual system is at the back of your head.
Most of our bodily functions occur without us even being aware – think about your heart beating, or your lungs breathing.
We have over 100 billion neurons in our brain. You don’t need to worry about what they are up to while we are busy, but you can rest assured they are operating to keep you healthy and alive.
Each of the neurons in our brain contains an axon which passes messages away from the cell body to other neurons. These send an electric signal or impulse which then travels down the axon. Each axon is covered in a fatty sheath called myelin which is made up of the omega-3 fatty DHA. This helps speed up cell signalling, resulting in greater brain power. Without DHA the communication across our brain would be less efficient and slower. This is why it’s critical that we eat foods containing DHA like fish and seafood to have our brains our performing at their best.