Are you busy with work and/or school, plus a spouse, partner or significant other, throw in some children or pets, daycare, parents, volunteering and how about keeping the home and car in working order? Is your cell phone or daily planner keeping this all organized? Leave it to Ned Hermann, author of The Creative Brain, to make me feel guilty about everything I need to organize daily, which seems so small, compared to what the brain is constantly keeping organized. My own fascination with the brain never led me to learn about how it works and why it is the fantastic organ it is. Without understanding some brain basics, it will be challenging to understand Herrmann’s HBDI, Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument. This week I will focus on basic brain education before delving into Herrmann’s HBDI and its link to creativity.
The history of the brain and understanding its organization can be traced back to Hippocrates, considered to be the founder of medicine. As far back as 450 B.C., he knew the brain consisted of two parts and declared it the center of our existence. (Herrmann) To see even more history of the brain and the many researchers and discoveries since 4000 B.C. to 2000, follow this link to the PBS History of the Brain. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/history/1808.html?position=375?button=13
Hippocrates may have known there was mental duality, but how does the brain work? The neuron hypothesis is a main idea of neuropsychology and suggests the nervous system is made up of neurons that do not connect yet interact with each other. (Herrmann) These neurons can be thought of as their own little processing systems. It is this system of neurons which makes the brain the most organized organ we have. Humans have over 80 billion neurons. (Cherry) When the neurons work together they represent the working regions of the brain. One neuron can receive signals, also called synapses, from 15,000 neurons that are close by. (Herrmann) They create electrical activity and an EEG, electroencephalogram, can detect this electrical activity and record it as brain waves. Depending upon what type of electrical activity is happening, different brain wave patterns appear. It is the EEG that allows researchers to study brain functioning by viewing the results of these patterns during different tasks. (Herrmann)
Organization is the key to the brain and there are two theories of how the brain is organized: The Triune Brain Theory and The Left Brain/Right Brain Theory. (Herrmann) If you look up at the photo above, at the bottom is the Triune Brain. Triune refers to three parts and in this case, it refers to three different brains. The belief with this theory is that each brain is laid upon the previous one with the reptilian on the bottom, limbic system in the middle and the neocortex on top. (Hermann) Just like it sounds, the reptilian brain is considered the ancient brain and resembles brains found in lizards and alligators today; it is driven by instinct. (Herrmann) The second oldest brain: the limbic or the mammalian brain is the brain that we share with rats, rabbits, and horses and is where our emotions come from. (Herrmann) The limbic brain also controls the nervous system. (Herrmann) Last and most importantly for us is the neocortex which overlies the limbic brain. Whales, chimpanzees and dolphins also have a neocortex. Our neocortex is much larger than the neocortex of those animals. It is often referred to as the “thinking cap” or gray matter; the neocortex, which is the newer part, is the area which is known for coping and adapting. (Herrmann)
The Left Brain/Right Brain Theory is necessary to understand as Herrmann used it when applying it to whole brain creativity and learning. If you look up again at the photo, the brain is divided into two hemispheres, referred to as left and right cerebral hemispheres. They are the same size and are responsible for vision, hearing, motor control, thinking and language skills. (Herrmann) Look closely and you will see a left limbic system and a right limbic system. The limbic system has an excellent blood supply and it controls body temperature, heart rate, hormones, memory, and emotions to name a few. (Herrmann) These two hemispheres and limbic systems can work together because of the corpus callosum (see above). To see an example of what happens when the corpus callosum is cut click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx53Zj7EKQE
In addition to the corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres, there are three types of fibers that provide interconnections in the brain: projection, association and commissures. Each one creates different connections. The projection fibers come from the brain stem and go to each hemisphere; the association fibers are in one hemisphere and provide links to the different regions on that side; commissures are the fibers that make connections between the two hemispheres. (Herrmann) The brain works best when all these fibers are communicating, collaborating and integrating with each other.
Per Herrmann, it is not only the connectedness of the structure we need to be concerned about, but the functioning as well. Situational and iterative functioning are critical for the brain. In situational functioning, when the brain has a task to do it will go to the region of the brain responsible for it and the rest of the brain will remain in a resting state. (Herrmann) Think about being an entrepreneur and needing to be focused on one task but unable to close off the brain. An entrepreneur may never get anywhere, if music, noise, or any other distractions get in the way. Situational functioning allows us to focus on one task. Iterative functioning is when the specialized centers in the brain are sending signals back and forth to complete a task; this can happen within each hemisphere or between hemispheres.
The systems within the brain are highly organized and function best when all parts are in order. The brain only weighs 3 pounds and takes up very little space compared to the rest of the body. (Cherry) It is amazing to think about how much power and control it has and all because of how organized an organ it is.
Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease, 400 B.C.E., The Internet Classics Archive.
Translated by Francis Adams
Herrmann, Ned. The Creative Brain. North Carolina: The Ned Herrmann Group, 2008
Kendra Cherry, How Big is the Brain? Verywell.com, 2016.
Web 19 Jan. 2016.
Kendra Cherry, How Many Neurons Are in the Brain? Verywell.com, 2016.
Web 11 Mar. 2016.