Following on from last week I thought it would be useful to start with a basic look at the “geography” of the brain and what is currently thought of as an overview of function.
I include here an image I drew so must first apologise if it is not completely in proportion… Do check out other images!
The view shown here shows the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. It also shows the cerebellum (more on this in later blogs).
You probably already know that the brain has two hemispheres, left and right. The lobes are sub-divisions of the lobes and appear in both hemispheres
The primary responsibility of the occipital lobe is vision. Damage to this lobe leads to blindness in part of the visual field.
The parietal lobe deals with body sensations while the temporal lobe contributes to hearing and to complex aspects of vision.
The frontal lobe contains some important structures such as the motor cortex and the prefrontal cortex. For me one of the most interesting aspects of the prefrontal cortex is the understanding researchers such as Patricia Goldman-Rakic and others have presented. According to Goldman-Rakic the prefrontal cortex is responsible for behaviours guided by “internal representations” of the world. Some of this understanding has come from studying animals in ways that personally I feel a little uncomfortable about, however the learning is still valid.
For example a monkey that lacks a prefrontal cortex can learn to respond to simple external stimulus that does not require an internal representation to interpret such as knowing which coloured light will provide food and which to avoid. The same monkey struggles when presented with a task that requires an internal representation as provided by a delayed response task. For example a task that where approaching a green light thirty seconds after it has gone out in order to receive the reward is the correct response. According to Goldman-Rakic an internal representation of the past stimuli is required in order to complete this task. Her research demonstrates that the prefrontal cortex includes a large number of separate circuits representing past stimuli of different types e.g. visual, auditory etc.
For students of NLP this research and it’s connection to the brain can be very useful as a way of explaining the use of representational system in many of the processes and techniques. It provides a concrete foundation to linking brain function to change work. For those of you who are more based in the coaching field this is equally useful.
I will continue with this theme next week.
For those of you who like original references, if anyone knows of a more upto date reference of similar research do let me know:
Goldman-Rakic, P. S. (1987) Development of cortical circuitry and cognitive function, Child Development, 58, 601-622 (4)