What’s up with my brain?

Take me to your leader! Your brain!


Your body could be separated into two categories – your brain and everything else.  Your brain is the control center, the motherboard (for those into electronics), or the mothership (for those into aliens and UFOs).  Your brain tells your legs and arms to move, your brain tells your heart to beat, and your brain tells your body to take a breath.  Your brain is also involved in how funny you are or how serious you are and other parts of your personality.  Your brain helps you remember things and allows you to taste, touch, smell, hear, and see.  And you just thought the brain was good for getting homework done!

The next question becomes, my brain is up here and my body is down there, how does my brain control all the things in my body? The answer is your nervous system. The usual definition of nervous is when you are anxious maybe about taking a test or talking to someone you have a crush on, but this is not what we mean when we talk about the nervous system. The nervous system involves your nerves which can be broken up into smaller units called neurons. Your neurons are how your brain communicates with the rest of your body.

 Your Neurons

Just imagine a game of telephone – your brain is the person sending the original message like “I’m hungry, let’s go get some food” and your brain wants to tell this to the arms and legs to make you get up and get some food.  The only problem is, your arms and legs are halfway across the room, so the brain has to tell the neurons to pass the message on to the arms and legs.

A neuron, also known as a nerve cell, is made up of many different parts. First, it is made up of all the usual parts of a regular cell, like a nucleus, ribosomes, mitochondria, the endoplasmic reticulum, and many more. Don’t worry if you don’t know about these parts yet, your science class will go over them at some point! The nerve cell is different from other cells in that it has some extra parts, which are axons and dendrites. The axons are responsible for giving the message to the rest of the body. The dendrites are responsible for receiving the messages from the brain and the rest of the body. Just think of axons as the ones calling on the telephone and the dendrites are the ones picking up the telephone and answering.

Your Brain

It is surprising to hear that the brain only weighs about 3 pounds after reading about how many important things it is responsible for.  Looking at a real brain, it just looks like a bunch of gooey bumps and folds (the bumps are called gyri and the folds are called sulci).  However, scientists have studied the brain and found that there are different parts of the brain that are responsible for different things.  The brain is separated into lobes.  Each lobe is responsible for different things (but most of the time they work together!).  The lobes of the brain are: the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the parietal lobe.

The frontal lobe is involved with your personality.  If you’re funny or creative – that comes from your frontal lobe.  The temporal lobe is a processing center that sorts out all the sounds that you hear.  It also handles our memories.  The occipital lobe deals with your eyes (oc-cipital like oc-ular!).  We are very visual creatures so our occipital lobe works hard for us all the time.  Finally, the parietal lobe handles all the other information we gather from our 5 senses (except vision because that’s in the occipital lobe, remember?).

Yes, the lobe of the brain have different functions but often they work together!  Think about if you are watching TV.  We use our eyes to see the moving pictures and we use our ears to listen to the sounds.  So, we already know that parts of our occipital lobe are working and so is our temporal lobe.

Your Brain vs. Their Brain

A lot of research has been done to understand the difference between an autistic brain and a non-autistic brain.  One thing they have found is that a person with autism typically has a heavier and larger brain than those who don’t have autism.  Also, the way that parts of the brain communicate with other parts is different from how the non-autistic person’s brain communicates.  For instance, a common challenge is figuring out what someone’s thoughts are when looking at their eyes.  A scientific study found that the part of the brain responsible for this (it’s in the temporal lobe) is impaired in the autistic brain.  Often, an autistic brain will use different parts of the brain to make up for problems in another.  Sometimes this works, but other times it makes things difficult!  Other times, it helps to see things in a way that is different than a neurotypical person because you can come up with creative solutions to problems!  It pays to be different, right!?