executive center of the brain

What is the “Executive Center” of the Brain?

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:

  • Focus
  • Forethought
  • Judgment
  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Impulse control
  • Empathy
  • 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.

Research shows that the PFC continues to develop beyond puberty into late adolescence and even into the mid-20’s. Even though we think of 18 year olds as adults, their brains are far from finished.

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.

Head Injuries

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
  • Distractibility
  • Disorganization
  • Hyperactivity (although only half the people with ADD are hyperactive)
  • Impulse control problems
  • Difficulty learning from past errors
  • Lack of forethought
  • Procrastination

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

  1. Exercise 30 minutes every day. Exercise boosts blood flow to the PFC leading to better decisions.
  1. Get eight hours of sleep every night. Less sleep equals lower overall blood flow to the PFC resulting in poor decision making.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 at 888-288-9834 to help you understand your brain and create a treatment plan that is targeted to your brain’s unique needs.

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  1. ROLAND says:

    Thank you, Dr. Amen, for this easily understood part of the brain function. I think you might appreciate the findings of a famous colleague of yours, who (re)discovered the causes and the cures of all diseases, which can be ascertained through brain CT scans. He calls these “lesions” DHSs, in memory of his murdered son. They are “Hamersche Herde” and are caused by the appropriate relays in the brain going into “fermentation mode” following a command of the Psyche in order to help the individual over a perceived crisis, also known as Cancer. The reason for this is, that the normal energy production of the brain cells is insufficient and the fermentation has a greater capacity to be adequate.

  2. Michelle Frankie says:

    i was curious about modafanil if u like n recommend it

  3. P.F. says:

    Does both methylphenidate and amphetamines stimulate the temporal lobes?

  4. Susan Gorman, M.A., SEP says:

    Thank you for this instructive, insightful article about the prefrontal cortex – the executive, the boss, and the tips for strengthening the prefrontal cortex. Your article brings together so many connections that could give us new answers.

  5. Susan Gorman, M.A., SEP says:

    Does COQ10 supplement help with strengthening memory and brain health
    for those who take statins over an extended period of time?


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