As the amazing human brain develops, it moves from a pretty primitive state of jumbled up nerve networks, through to a very complex series of coordinated networks over the years. The first networks that come on board start to link our senses to our brains – we can start to see and hear. As we age, our biology and our growing experiences connect pathways and we are able to do things that are more complex – so complex that some of our brains can even master algebra, fly fishing or a baking a sponge cake.
Our brains also start to become more efficient. We start to prune back the pathways we don’t need so that we can become more efficient at what we do. At about age 25, the pathways in our brain are covered in an insulating substance called myelin, which essentially stops messages leaking out on their journey along the pathways and we get even more efficient at the things we practice. Some things even become automatic.
So, as we journey through life, we are taking information into our brain and trying to work out where it should fit. In essence we make a set of rules, core beliefs or schemas upon which we build up our bank of ideas about how the world works and what is going to work best for us. The rules that govern our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are buried deep within our brain. Each of us has a unique bank of rules because we all started with varying biology and then from the very get go, we all began to experience the world differently.
Every day, the phone rings at our psychology practice with a range of calls about children with problems. Parents, carers, doctors, psychiatrists, paediatricians, teachers and welfare workers all call about children that need help. We get calls about tots, teens and “tweens”.
Looking at the types of calls coming through can tell us a bit about what is going on for kids out there these days. The health and happiness of our children is a great measure of how we are doing as a society. So, if children aren’t healthy and happy, what are the things that are not working for them? What is it they need?
The human brain never ceases to amaze me. It is truly an amazing piece of equipment made up of miniscule and precise parts that coordinate and move our body in ways we think about and ways we don’t even have to think about. You would think that having had a brain for as long as humans have existed, we might know a bit more about it by now. Technology and machines that go “ping” are helping us to advance our knowledge further and further each day. In the meantime, I find it easy to explain a lot of human behaviour by thinking about the brain being made up of sections or parts that each have a an important job to do when we react to things.
The brain seems to have some really quite primitive parts and some really extra clever bits. The primitive parts are the bits that look after our essential survival – things like breathing, eating, pooing and running away from dangerous things.