The prefrontal cortex, one of the most interesting parts of the brain

The prefrontal cortex, one of the most interesting parts of the brain

The prefrontal cortex is the most sophisticated reflection of our evolution.From an evolutionary point of view, this is the last cortical region to develop, to show a complete phylogenetic and ontogenetic advance. We can easily identify it because it is this rough and wrinkled area, located in the area closest to our face, where the most complex mental and cognitive processes are contained.

One of the goals of neuropsychology is to understand this sophisticated relationship between the brain and our behavior. Thus, no one will be surprised to know that the prefrontal cortex is undeniably one of the most interesting and decisive areas to understand our abstract thinking and even our self-awareness.It is, so to speak, this structure that makes us truly human.

The prefrontal cortex is that region of the brain associated with the planning of cognitively complex behaviors and the expression of personality.
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Scientists call "executive functions" all those sophisticated tasks performed by the prefrontal cortex. They decided so because of a very specific fact:we are here confronted with this privileged space of our brain where we can distinguish between the good of the badwhere we can assess our environment and even establish control over our own thinking.

The prefrontal cortex, the last area of ​​the brain to have developed

Some parents lament the difficulty of their teenage child to understand some things, to control and curb their impulsivity, to reason enough before acting. We lament that the development of the prefrontal cortex is actually complete only at the age of 20 or 25 years.

Despite the "almost" adult appearance of our adolescent boys and girls, we must not forget that their brains are still immature. It is indeed interesting to note that the human brain progresses towards the maturity of the neck to the forehead and, consequently,the prefrontal cortex is the last area to consolidate, to develop the most sophisticated and valuable capabilities of our species.

This does not mean, however, that children and adolescents are not able to make decisions until they reach their twenties. They do it and, sometimes, adequately. It should be borne in mind, however, that the development of these more complex skills is being phased in year after year, and thatthe greater the challenges, the stimuli, the opportunities and the supports, the more the development of these cognitive capacities will be optimal.

Therefore, do not hesitate to be more understanding with them, given their ages. Indeed, the only thing they need is time, patience, understanding and good advice.

Parts of the prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex is this sophisticated and at the same time extremely complex control center thathas multiple connections to different regions of the brain. Thus, structures such as the hippocampus, the thalamus and the rest of the brain lobes share with him direct channels, channels where information comes and goes almost incessantly.

Let's see now in which parts the prefrontal cortex is divided:

  • The orbitofrontal cortex, related to our social behaviors and our decision-making
  • The dorsolateral cortex, an essential area of ​​the human being. Thanks to him we plan, we conceive objectives, we memorize, we think … Neuroscientists dare to say that this is where our consciousness is.
  • The ventromedial cortex is related to our perception and the expression of our emotions

What are the functions of the prefrontal cortex?

Scientists from the University of Missouri explained a few years ago why our prefrontal cortex is so large compared to other species with which we share our planet. They indicated that this would be due to a process of demographic pressure. In other words,as the number of people in our environments grew, the way we interacted and communicated became better.

This whole social, cognitive and emotional experience has shaped a more advanced prefrontal cortex. Let's see what functions this special part of our brain usually performs.

  • It coordinates and adjusts our social behavior.
  • It helps us control impulses and manage our emotions
  • It is in this area that we implement processes related to our personality (being more shy, more daring, more open to experience …)
  • Motivation, the ability to have enough illusion and impulse to reach a goal, is also located in the prefrontal cortex
  • We focus attention, we organize complex information and plan
  • This is where the working memory, these cognitive skills thanks to which we store information when we experiment or do things

To conclude, given the relevance of all these functions, we can imagine what it means to suffer from a lesion in the prefrontal cortex. Thus, people who have suffered trauma, neural deterioration or localized development problems in this area generally have difficulty controlling their behavior, planning, deciding, creating …

They are also characterized by linear thinking and often antisocial behavior.These are very delicate and complex situations that show us, once again, the great relevance of this cortical area for human beings and their social behavior.


The orbitofrontal cortex, seat of our social behavior

The orbitofrontal cortex is one of the most interesting brain areas. It is related to our personality, our emotions and especially to social behavior. Learn more
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