What part of the brain makes up about 30 percent of the human brain – compared with just 11 percent for chimpanzees, 7 percent for dogs, 3 percent for cats (perhaps why they need nine lives), and 1 percent for mice (perhaps why they are eaten by cats)?
If you guessed the prefrontal cortex (PFC), you’re right. The PFC is located behind the forehead, is the most evolved part of the human brain, and is involved with:
- Impulse control
- Learning from mistakes
What Does the Prefrontal Cortex Do?
Our ability as a species to think, plan ahead, use time wisely, and communicate with others is heavily influenced by this part of the brain. The PFC is responsible for behaviors that are necessary for you to be goal-directed, socially responsible, and effective.
Problems in the Prefrontal Cortex
Think of the PFC like the boss at work. When it is low in activity, it is as if the boss is gone, so there is little to no supervision and nothing gets done. When the PFC works too hard, it is as if the boss is micromanaging everyone, and people are left with anxiety and worry.
Due to its location, the PFC is especially susceptible to head injury. Unfortunately for the PFC, much of it sits on top of several sharp, bony ridges inside the skull, and lies just beneath the place where many blows to the head occur.
Many people do not fully understand how head injuries, even “minor” ones, can alter a person’s character and ability to learn.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
ADD, also referred to occasionally as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), typically occurs as a result of neurological dysfunction in the PFC. When people with ADD try to concentrate, PFC activity decreases rather than increases.
People with ADD show symptoms such as:
- Poor internal supervision
- Short attention span
- Hyperactivity (although only half the people with ADD are hyperactive)
- Impulse control problems
- Difficulty learning from past errors
- Lack of forethought
Without proper PFC function, it is difficult to act in consistent, thoughtful ways, and impulses take over. Impulse control problems may lead to behaviors such as lying, stealing, having affairs, and excessive spending.
Increased death rates have been associated with impulsive behaviors — tobacco use, diet and activity patterns, excessive alcohol use, violence, risky sexual behavior, risky driving, suicide, and drug use. Research states this principle is a predictor of longevity.
4 Ways to Strengthen the Executive Center of Your Brain
- Exercise 30 minutes every day. Exercise boosts blood flow to the PFC leading to better decisions.
- Get eight hours of sleep every night. Less sleep equals lower overall blood flow to the PFC resulting in poor decision making.
- Keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day with healthy snacks, green tea, and the vitamins and nutrients you need.Low blood sugar levels are associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain, poor impulse control, irritability, and bad decisions.
- Always ask “Then what?” These are the two most important words in the English language when it comes to your health. Think about the consequences of your behavior before you act.
Taking care of your brain is the single most important thing you can do for your health, your life, and the lives of those around you. Having a PFC that works optimally also helps you to be smarter, healthier, happier – and even wealthier – because you develop the ability to think before acting and weigh the consequences.
Contact Amen Clinics today to help you understand your brain and create a treatment plan that is targeted to your brain’s unique needs.