Matilda Wren

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How The Cerebral Cortex Dominates Your Behaviour

Human behaviour refers to actions or reactions, in relation to an individual’s environment. Behaviour can be conscious or unconscious, obvious or concealed and voluntary or involuntary. Because all behaviour is controlled by the nervous system, it is necessary to recognize how the brain functions in order to understand behaviour.

There are particular fields within psychology that aim to understand how the structure and function of the brain relate to specific behavioral and psychological processes. Behavioral Neuroscientists, Cognitive Neuroscientists, and Neurophysiologists explore how behavioral processes exist and how certain functions of the brain control them.

The cerebral cortex is a crucial and significant function in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language and consciousness. It is connected to various sub cortical structures, for example, the Thalamus and Basal Ganglia. It sends information to them along efferent connections and receives information from them via afferent connections. Sensory information is routed to the cerebral cortex via the thalamus.

The cerebral cortex incorporates two thirds of the brain mass and lies over and around most of the structures of the brain. It is highly developed and is responsible for thinking, perceiving, producing and understanding behaviour.

The cerebral cortex is divided into lobes that each has a specific function, for example, areas for vision, touch, hearing, movement and smell.

The Cingulate Gyrus is part of the Limbic System. It has a system of brain structures which are involved in emotion, motivation and learning.

The cerebellum is part of the Hindbrain. This is involved in coordination and regulation of movement, posture & balance.

The Occipital Lobe is responsible for vision & visual processing.

The Parietal Lobe is involved in sensory function, body senses, touch & pressure, pain & temperature, spatial perception & visual processing such as object recognition.

The Frontal Lobe is involved with speech production, emotion, cognition & memory.

The Occipital Lobe, Parietal Lobe and the Frontal Lobe all belong to the Left Hemisphere.

The main area of the brain involved in thinking, learning and reasoning is called the pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain deals with logic and modifies raw emotions. If this particular area is damaged, an individual may not have the ability to reason and act accordingly to this.

Breiter (2008) carried out a brain imaging study of cocaine addicts that revealed abnormalities in the cerebral cortex. He exposed a reduced cortical thickness in the frontal regions of the brain. These are responsible for attention and decision making. He concluded this reduced cortical thickness was the result of long-term cocaine exposure. It is known that addicts make judgments and decisions differently than non-addicted individual’s do.

The behavioural processes that have been described are all managed by the cerebral cortex and if this becomes damaged individuals display some lack of normality within their thinking or cognitive actions.

Without the cerebral cortex an individual would not be able to talk in a logical, consistent and coherent manner. They would not be able to sit up straight or move there limbs. Forming an idea and carrying out the action of the idea would also not be a possibility. Emotions and the ability to express emotions would not exist. Due to this it can be proposed the cerebral cortex dominates human behaviour.