How the Brain Stores Information

The brain is the most complex organ we humans have. Comprised of hundreds of billions of cells, this three pound wonder is the control center of everything we do. Before we discuss how the brain stores information, it is important to understand how it is constructed.

The brain has three major parts, which have specific characteristics. They are the hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain.

The hindbrain includes the upper portion of the spinal cord, the brain stem and the cerebellum. This controls movement and muscle memories, such as those required to play a musical instrument. This is also the control center for essential processes such as breathing and heart rate. The midbrain is the highest portion of the brainstem which controls some reflex motions and eye movement. The forebrain is the most evolved and largest portion of the brain. It consists of the cerebrum, hypothalamus, thalamus, and hippocampus. This is where memories are stored.

The cerebrum has a deep fissure running down the center, dividing it into two hemispheres. One hemisphere is responsible for speech while the other controls abstract reasoning. Each hemisphere is further partitioned into different lobes which are also responsible for specific functions.

The frontal lobes lie directly under your brow and are responsible for learning, memory, motor coordination, and language. The temporal lobes are on each side of your head just behind the ears. They are responsible for auditory information gathering and processing from the ears to the parietal lobes. The temporal lobes also house the hippocampus, the portion responsible for short term, auditory and visual memories. The parietal lobes sit behind the frontal lobes just above the temporal lobes. They are responsible for tactile cognition or in simple terms, how we understand form through touch. The fourth set of lobes is the occipital lobes. They are located in the back of the head just above the cerebellum and are primarily responsible for visual function.

Most of the multitudes of cells in the brain are neurons, which are similar in function to an on/off switch. Neurons have three primary parts the cell body, the dendrites, and the axon.

The cell body is the nucleus of the neuron and contains the structures to keep the neuron alive and functioning. Dendrites are long tendrils that branch out from the cell body and receive impulses from other neurons. The electrical impulses travel down the axon (similar to a long wire) which causes the neuron to emit a chemical across the gap between itself and the next neuron (called a synapse).

The chemical is referred to as a neurotransmitter. Different types of neurons send out different transmitters. Common neurotransmitters are epinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine.

The electrical impulses race through the neurons that are responsible for saving information to those specific brain lobes “geared” to memory, vision, muscle movement etc. But how does the brain actually lay down memory to be recalled at some later date in the future? Science has yet to make a definitive determination. Some make the suggestion that the chemical modifications in the neurons are responsible, others believe it to be in the protein make up. The definitive answer is apparently a secret locked away in the vault of God’s creation recipe.