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White illustration of a brain against a bright blue background.

Brain Anatomy and How the Brain Works

What is the brain?

The brain is a complex organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body. Together, the brain and spinal cord that extends from it make up the central nervous system, or CNS.

What is the brain made of?

Weighing about 3 pounds in the average adult, the brain is about 60% fat. The remaining 40% is a combination of water, protein, carbohydrates and salts. The brain itself is a not a muscle. It contains blood vessels and nerves, including neurons and glial cells.

What is the gray matter and white matter?

Gray and white matter are two different regions of the central nervous system. In the brain, gray matter refers to the darker, outer portion, while white matter describes the lighter, inner section underneath. In the spinal cord, this order is reversed: The white matter is on the outside, and the gray matter sits within.

Cross sections of the brain and spinal cord, showing the grey and white matter.

Gray matter is primarily composed of neuron somas (the round central cell bodies), and white matter is mostly made of axons (the long stems that connects neurons together) wrapped in myelin (a protective coating). The different composition of neuron parts is why the two appear as separate shades on certain scans.

Parts of a nerve cell: the central soma cell body with inner nucleus and outer dendrites and long axon tail, insulated by myelin pads.

Each region serves a different role. Gray matter is primarily responsible for processing and interpreting information, while white matter transmits that information to other parts of the nervous system.

How does the brain work?

The brain sends and receives chemical and electrical signals throughout the body. Different signals control different processes, and your brain interprets each. Some make you feel tired, for example, while others make you feel pain.

Some messages are kept within the brain, while others are relayed through the spine and across the body’s vast network of nerves to distant extremities. To do this, the central nervous system relies on billions of neurons (nerve cells).

Main Parts of the Brain and Their Functions

At a high level, the brain can be divided into the cerebrum, brainstem and cerebellum.

Diagram of the brain's major parts: cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem

The cerebrum (front of brain) comprises gray matter (the cerebral cortex) and white matter at its center. The largest part of the brain, the cerebrum initiates and coordinates movement and regulates temperature. Other areas of the cerebrum enable speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, emotions and learning. Other functions relate to vision, hearing, touch and other senses.

Cerebral Cortex

Cortex is Latin for “bark,” and describes the outer gray matter covering of the cerebrum. The cortex has a large surface area due to its folds, and comprises about half of the brain’s weight.

The cerebral cortex is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. It is covered with ridges (gyri) and folds (sulci). The two halves join at a large, deep sulcus (the interhemispheric fissure, AKA the medial longitudinal fissure) that runs from the front of the head to the back. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left half controls the right side of the body. The two halves communicate with one another through a large, C-shaped structure of white matter and nerve pathways called the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is in the center of the cerebrum.

The brainstem (middle of brain) connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. The brainstem includes the midbrain, the pons and the medulla.

The spinal cord extends from the bottom of the medulla and through a large opening in the bottom of the skull. Supported by the vertebrae, the spinal cord carries messages to and from the brain and the rest of the body.

The cerebellum (“little brain”) is a fist-sized portion of the brain located at the back of the head, below the temporal and occipital lobes and above the brainstem. Like the cerebral cortex, it has two hemispheres. The outer portion contains neurons, and the inner area communicates with the cerebral cortex. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance and equilibrium. New studies are exploring the cerebellum’s roles in thought, emotions and social behavior, as well as its possible involvement in addiction, autism and schizophrenia.

Brain Coverings: Meninges

Three layers of protective covering called meninges surround the brain and the spinal cord.

Three layers of the meninges beneath the skull: the outer dura mater, arachnoid and inner pia mater

Lobes of the Brain and What They Control

Each brain hemisphere (parts of the cerebrum) has four sections, called lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. Each lobe controls specific functions.

Diagram of the brain's lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital

Deeper Structures Within the Brain

Pituitary gland.

Sometimes called the “master gland,” the pituitary gland is a pea-sized structure found deep in the brain behind the bridge of the nose. The pituitary gland governs the function of other glands in the body, regulating the flow of hormones from the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testicles. It receives chemical signals from the hypothalamus through its stalk and blood supply.


The hypothalamus is located above the pituitary gland and sends it chemical messages that control its function. It regulates body temperature, synchronizes sleep patterns, controls hunger and thirst and also plays a role in some aspects of memory and emotion.

Small, almond-shaped structures, an amygdala is located under each half (hemisphere) of the brain. Included in the limbic system, the amygdalae regulate emotion and memory and are associated with the brain’s reward system, stress, and the “fight or flight” response when someone perceives a threat.


A curved seahorse-shaped organ on the underside of each temporal lobe, the hippocampus is part of a larger structure called the hippocampal formation. It supports memory, learning, navigation and perception of space. It receives information from the cerebral cortex and may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Pineal Gland

The pineal gland is located deep in the brain and attached by a stalk to the top of the third ventricle. The pineal gland responds to light and dark and secretes melatonin, which regulates circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle.

Ventricles and Cerebrospinal Fluid

Deep in the brain are four open areas with passageways between them. They also open into the central spinal canal and the area beneath arachnoid layer of the meninges.

The ventricles manufacture cerebrospinal fluid , or CSF, a watery fluid that circulates in and around the ventricles and the spinal cord, and between the meninges. CSF surrounds and cushions the spinal cord and brain, washes out waste and impurities, and delivers nutrients.

Diagram of the brain's deeper structures

Blood Supply to the Brain

Two sets of blood vessels supply blood and oxygen to the brain: the vertebral arteries and the carotid arteries.

The external carotid arteries extend up the sides of your neck, and are where you can feel your pulse when you touch the area with your fingertips. The internal carotid arteries branch into the skull and circulate blood to the front part of the brain.

The vertebral arteries follow the spinal column into the skull, where they join together at the brainstem and form the basilar artery , which supplies blood to the rear portions of the brain.

The circle of Willis , a loop of blood vessels near the bottom of the brain that connects major arteries, circulates blood from the front of the brain to the back and helps the arterial systems communicate with one another.

Diagram of the brain's major arteries

Cranial Nerves

Inside the cranium (the dome of the skull), there are 12 nerves, called cranial nerves:

The first two nerves originate in the cerebrum, and the remaining 10 cranial nerves emerge from the brainstem, which has three parts: the midbrain, the pons and the medulla.

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Executive Function

Executive Control Network

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Executive function describes a set of cognitive processes and mental skills that help an individual plan, monitor, and successfully execute their goals . The “executive functions,” as they’re known, include attentional control, working memory , inhibition, and problem-solving, many of which are thought to originate in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

Understanding Executive Function


Many behaviors in which humans engage, such as breathing or stepping out of the way of an oncoming car, occur without conscious thought. Most others, however, rely on executive function. Any process or goal pursuit that requires time management , decision-making , and storing information in one’s memory makes use of executive function to some degree. Since much of modern life is process-driven and demands that individuals set and meet goals, disruptions in executive function can make it challenging for someone to succeed in school, at work, or in the household.

What are the different executive functions?

Many experts believe that t he human mind contains seven different executive functions . These include self-awareness, inhibition, nonverbal working memory ( short-term memory related to sensory and spatial information), verbal working memory (short-term memory related to speech and language), emotional regulation , motivational regulation, and planning and problem-solving. 

Is executive functioning related to intelligence?

Studies have found consistent overlap between executive functioning and general intelligence scores; some researchers have even proposed that executive functioning may better predict success than does IQ  across a wide array of disciplines. However, some high-IQ individuals struggle with executive functions; thus, there is clearly more to intelligence than executive functioning alone.

How long does it take for the executive functions to fully develop?

The executive functions start to appear in the first year of a child’s life and develop rapidly in the elementary school years. For most people, they will continue to develop into the mid-20s or even early 30s . Children and teens who lag behind their peers in executive functioning may find that they have fewer challenges once they enter adulthood.

Problems with Executive Function

problem solving function in the brain

Someone who struggles with executive functioning will likely have trouble starting or finishing tasks, executing multiple steps of a project in sequence, and keeping their belongings organized. They may struggle to make decisions or lose important items frequently.

Issues with impulse or emotional control are a less obvious sign of an executive functioning deficit. Someone with underdeveloped executive functioning may act without thinking and may appear overly emotional at times; this is because both behavioral and emotional inhibition are key aspects of executive functioning.

Executive dysfunction—sometimes called executive function disorder, or EFD—may appear similar to ADHD ; indeed, some experts posit that ADHD is itself a disorder of executive function. People with ADHD—especially children—usually struggle with one or more executive functions, in addition to other symptoms such as hyperactivity and distractibility.

What is executive function disorder (EFD)?

The term “executive function disorder,” or EFD, describes a condition in which a child or adult struggles significantly with planning, problem-solving, or other aspects of executive function. EFD is not currently an official diagnosis in the DSM-5 , though executive function-related symptoms do appear in other DSM conditions.

What causes poor executive functioning?

The cause of poor executive functioning is not always clear. Like other developmental challenges such as ADHD, the cause is likely a combination of genetics , prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol , early childhood trauma , or other factors. Sometimes, there is no discernible cause.

What are signs of poor executive functioning?

Someone with executive functioning challenges will find it more difficult than others in their age group to remember information, plan and execute tasks, keep items and information organized, and maintain motivation . They may also struggle with emotional, impulse, or attentional control.

Is executive function disorder (EFD) the same thing as ADHD?

No, though many experts believe the two are closely related. Though many with ADHD will struggle with one or more executive functions , the core symptoms of ADHD—hyperactivity, impulsivity, and distractibility—are not solely related to executive functioning. What’s more, executive function difficulties can co-occur with other developmental and mood disorders, including autism or depression .

Is it possible to have both ADHD and executive function disorder (EFD)?

Executive function disorder, or EFD, is not an official diagnosis. However, it is possible—and in fact, quite likely—for someone with ADHD to also have significant challenges with executive functioning.

Why is my child so disorganized?

Children can be disorganized because of ADHD, disobedience, or simply because they’re not interested in neatness. However, some children who wish to be organized but find it difficult may have poor executive functioning . These children may struggle with the motivation, problem-solving, and planning that are required for staying organized.

How to Improve Executive Function

problem solving function in the brain

The ability to plan, problem-solve, organize, and execute can help children and adults in many domains in life. Thus, improving these skills is often a key interest for parents and adults. For some who struggle with executive function, accommodations at work or school can help fill the gaps; strategies aimed specifically at areas of weakness can also be of great help.

However, it’s important to remember that executive function is among the slowest mental processes to develop. Thus, many children who struggle with executive function may find that their skills naturally catch up over time and continue to improve well into adulthood.

Is it possible for executive function to be improved?

Yes. Most children and teens who are behind their peers in executive function will continue to improve with time, particularly if offered specific strategies for doing so; many will catch up by the time they reach adulthood. Adults may find progress to be slower but can also improve executive functions using targeted strategies and accommodations. 

What strategies can help strengthen executive function?

Strategies for improving executive function include: breaking a larger task into smaller chunks; externalizing information using to-do lists, notepads, or phone reminders; buddying up with a peer to foster accountability; blocking access to distractions (putting one’s phone in a drawer or blocking tempting websites); and using rewards to motivate periods of consistent effort.

My child struggles to plan and remember tasks. How can I help her improve?

Many children who struggle to keep track of tasks and responsibilities find the simple act of writing them down—and thus externalizing them—to be hugely helpful. Working with the teacher if necessary, parents can help their child establish a consistent routine for writing down tasks, planning the steps for completion, and rewarding themselves when successful.

Can adults improve their executive function skills?

Yes. Adults should identify which specific executive functions they wish to strengthen —whether planning, problem-solving, working memory, or emotional regulation—when deciding which strategy to use. For example, adults who struggle with motivation can devise a reward system for successfully completing a task, while those who struggle with impulse control can establish consistent routines to strengthen inhibition.

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Train your brain

Practicing a new and challenging activity is a good bet for building and maintaining cognitive skills..


"Eventually, your cognitive skills will wane and thinking and memory will be more challenging, so you need to build up your reserve," says Dr. John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. "Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy."

Physical and mental game

Research has shown that regular physical exercise is one way to improve cognitive functions like memory recall, problem solving, concentration, and attention to detail. However, it is not clear if the physical aspect alone boosts your brain or if a combination of other factors — like the mental challenge of the activity, the frequency you do it, and the desire to improve — also contribute.

Take swimming, for example. It has obvious cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits, but also involves constant thinking, processing, and learning. You have to be mindful of your breathing rhythm and how to properly execute strokes and kicks. You also can measure your expertise in terms of endurance and speed, which motivates you to practice your skills to be a better swimmer.

A brain training activity doesn't always have to be exercise-related. Much research has found that creative outlets like painting and other art forms, learning an instrument, doing expressive or autobiographical writing, and learning a language also can improve cognitive function. A 2014 study in Gerontologist reviewed 31 studies that focused on how these specific endeavors affected older adults' mental skills and found that all of them improved several aspects of memory like recalling instructions and processing speed.

Do the right activity

No matter which new activity you choose, make sure it follows three guidelines in order to maximize brain training, according to Dr. Morris.

Challenging. You have to always challenge your brain in order for it to grow. This is why choosing a new activity is so beneficial. It engages your brain to learn something new and offers the chance to improve.

Not up for a new endeavor? Raise the bar for an existing activity. For instance, if you are a casual golfer, commit to increasing your ability and aim to lower your handicap or shoot a specific score. "You don't have the challenge of learning something new, but rather the challenge of increasing your skill set and knowledge," says Dr. Morris.

Complexity. A complex activity not only strikes a match of excitement, but forces your brain to work on specific thought processes like problem solving and creative thinking. A 2013 study in Psychological Science found that older adults ages 60 to 90 who did new and complex activities, such as digital photography or quilting, for an average of 16 hours per week for three months scored better on working and long-term memory tests than those who did more familiar activities like reading and doing crossword puzzles.

Practice. Practice makes permanent, and that goes for brain function, too. "You can't improve memory if you don't work at it," says Dr. Morris. "The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits."

Your activity should require some level of constant practice, but the goal is not to strive for vast improvements. "It is the constant repetition of working to improve, and not the quest for mastery, that can have the greatest impact," says Dr. Morris.

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What Is Cognition?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.

problem solving function in the brain

Verywell / Laura Porter

Frequently Asked Questions

Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. Some of the many different cognitive processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving .

These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning. Cognitive psychology is the field of psychology that investigates how people think and the processes involved in cognition. 

Hot Cognition vs. Cold Cognition

Some split cognition into two categories: hot and cold. Hot cognition refers to mental processes in which emotion plays a role, such as reward-based learning . Conversely, cold cognition refers to mental processes that don't involve feelings or emotions, such as working memory .

History of the Study of Cognition

The study of how humans think dates back to the time of ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

Philosophical Origins

Plato's approach to the study of the mind suggested that people understand the world by first identifying basic principles buried deep inside themselves, then using rational thought to create knowledge. This viewpoint was later advocated by philosophers such as Rene Descartes and linguist Noam Chomsky. It is often referred to as rationalism.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that people acquire knowledge through their observations of the world around them. Later thinkers such as John Locke and B.F. Skinner also advocated this point of view, which is often referred to as empiricism.

Early Psychology

During the earliest days of psychology—and for the first half of the 20th century—psychology was largely dominated by psychoanalysis , behaviorism , and humanism .

Eventually, a formal field of study devoted solely to the study of cognition emerged as part of the "cognitive revolution" of the 1960s. This field is known as cognitive psychology.

The Emergence of Cognitive Psychology

One of the earliest definitions of cognition was presented in the first textbook on cognitive psychology, which was published in 1967. According to Ulric Neisser, a psychologist and the book's author, cognition is "those processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used."

Types of Cognitive Processes

There are many different types of cognitive processes. They include:

What Can Affect Cognition?

It is important to remember that these cognitive processes are complex and often imperfect. Some of the factors that can affect or influence cognition include:

Research indicates that as we age, our cognitive function tends to decline. Age-related cognitive changes include processing things more slowly, finding it harder to recall past events, and a failure to remember information that was once known (such as how to solve a particular math equation or historical information).

Attention Issues

Selective attention is a limited resource, so there are a number of things that can make it difficult to focus on everything in your environment. Attentional blink , for example, happens when you are so focused on one thing that you completely miss something else happening right in front of you.

Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking related to how people process and interpret information about the world. Confirmation bias is one common example that involves only paying attention to information that aligns with your existing beliefs while ignoring evidence that doesn't support your views. 

Some studies have connected cognitive function with certain genes. For example, a 2020 study published in Brain Communications found that a person's level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is 30% determined by heritability, can impact the rate of brain neurodegeneration, a condition that ultimately impacts cognitive function.

Memory Limitations

Short-term memory is surprisingly brief, typically lasting just 20 to 30 seconds, whereas long-term memory can be stable and enduring, with memories lasting years and even decades. Memory can also be fragile and fallible. Sometimes we forget and other times we are subject to misinformation effects that may even lead to the formation of false memories .

Uses of Cognition

Cognitive processes affect every aspect of life, from school to work to relationships. Some specific uses for these processes include the following.

Learning New Things

Learning requires being able to take in new information, form new memories, and make connections with other things that you already know. Researchers and educators use their knowledge of these cognitive processes to create instructive materials to help people learn new concepts .

Forming Memories

Memory is a major topic of interest in the field of cognitive psychology. How we remember, what we remember, and what we forget reveal a great deal about how cognitive processes operate.

While people often think of memory as being much like a video camera—carefully recording, cataloging, and storing life events away for later recall—research has found that memory is much more complex.

Making Decisions

Whenever people make any type of a decision, it involves making judgments about things they have processed. This might involve comparing new information to prior knowledge, integrating new information into existing ideas, or even replacing old knowledge with new knowledge before making a choice.

Impact of Cognition

Our cognitive processes have a wide-ranging impact that influences everything from our daily life to our overall health.

Perceiving the World

As you take in sensations from the world around you, the information that you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell must first be transformed into signals that the brain can understand. The perceptual process allows you to take in this sensory information and convert it into a signal that your brain can recognize and act upon.

Forming Impressions

The world is full of an endless number of sensory experiences . To make meaning out of all this incoming information, it is important for the brain to be able to capture the fundamentals. Events are reduced to only the critical concepts and ideas that we need.

Filling in the Gaps

In addition to reducing information to make it more memorable and understandable, people also elaborate on these memories as they reconstruct them. In some cases, this elaboration happens when people are struggling to remember something . When the information cannot be recalled, the brain sometimes fills in the missing data with whatever seems to fit.

Interacting With the World

Cognition involves not only the things that go on inside our heads but also how these thoughts and mental processes influence our actions. Our attention to the world around us, memories of past events, understanding of language, judgments about how the world works, and abilities to solve problems all contribute to how we behave and interact with our surrounding environment.

Tips for Improving Cognition

Cognitive processes are influenced by a range of factors, including genetics and experiences. While you cannot change your genes or age, there are things that you can do to protect and maximize your cognitive abilities:

Thinking is an important component, but cognition also encompasses unconscious and perceptual processes as well. In addition to thinking, cognition involves language, attention, learning, memory, and perception.

Cognition includes all of the conscious and unconscious processes involved in thinking, perceiving, and reasoning. Examples of cognition include paying attention to something in the environment, learning something new, making decisions, processing language, sensing and perceiving environmental stimuli, solving problems, and using memory. 

People utilize cognitive skills to think, learn, recall, and reason. Five important cognitive skills include short-term memory, logic, processing speed, attention, and spatial recognition.

American Psychological Association. Cognition .

Ezebuilo HC. Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza: A brief survey of rationalism . J App Philos . 2020;18(6):95-118. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.19692.39043

Sgarbi M.  The Aristotelian Tradition and the Rise of British Empiricism: Logic and Epistemology in the British Isles (1570–1689) .

Lachman R, Lachman J L, Butterfield EC.  Cognitive psychology and information processing: An introduction .

Neisser U.  Cognitive psychology: Classic edition .

Murman D. The impact of age on cognition . Semin Hear . 2015;36(3):111-121. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1555115

Li S, Weinstein G, Zare H, et al. The genetics of circulating BDNF: Towards understanding the role of BDNF in brain structure and function in middle and old ages . Brain Commun . 2020;2(2):fcaa176. doi:10.1093/braincomms/fcaa176

Weinsten Y. How long is short-term memory: Shorter than you might think . Duke Undergraduate Education.

Leding J, Antonio L. Need for cognition and discrepancy detection in the misinformation effect . J Cognitive Psychol . 2019;31(4):409-415. doi:10.1080/20445911.2019.1626400

Scheiter K, Schubert C, Schuler A. Self-regulated learning from illustrated text: Eye movement modelling to support use and regulation of cognitive processes during learning from multimedia . Brit J Educ Psychol . 2017;88(1):80-94. doi:10.1111/bjep.12175

Toppi J, Astolfi L, Risetti M, et al. Different topological properties of EEG-derived networks describe working memory phases as revealed by graph theoretical analysis . Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;11:637. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00637

Mather G. Foundations of sensation and perception .

Sousa D.  How the brain learns .

Houben S, Otgaar H, Roelofs J, Merckelbach H. EMDR and false memories: A response to Lee, de Jongh, and Hase (2019) . Clin Psycholog Sci . 2019;7(3):405-6. doi:10.1177/2167702619830392

Schwarzer R. Self-efficacy: Thought control of action .

Imaoka M, Nakao H, Nakamura M, et al. Effect of multicomponent exercise and nutrition support on the cognitive function of older adults: A randomized controlled trial . Clin Interv Aging . 2019;14:2145-53. doi:10.2147/CIA.S229034

Petroutsatou K, Sifiniadis A. Exploring the consequences of human multitasking in industrial automation projects: A tool to mitigate impacts - Part II . Organiz Techn Manage Construct . 2018;10(1):1770-1777. doi:10.2478/otmcj-2016-0031

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Revlin R. Cognition: Theory and Practice .

By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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Executive Dysfunction

Executive dysfunction affects how you set goals, socialize with others, motivate yourself and make choices about your life.

What is executive dysfunction?

Executive dysfunction is a behavioral symptom that disrupts a person’s ability to manage their own thoughts, emotions and actions. It’s most common with certain mental health conditions, especially addictions, behavioral disorders, brain development disorders and mood disorders .

What are executive functions?

To better understand what executive dysfunction is, it helps to know more about executive functions. The main executive functions are:

Working memory

Working memory is the kind of memory that involves whatever you’re doing right now. If you’re reading, taking notes or having a conversation, then your working memory is part of the process.

Cognitive flexibility

Also known as fluid or flexible thinking, this refers to how well your brain can shift and move from one topic to another. The more flexible your thinking, the better you can adapt to whatever is happening around you. This also helps you react to unexpected changes in your situation.

People who are better at flexible thinking are often very creative and imaginative. This ability lets them connect concepts and ideas that might not ordinarily seem linked, which also helps with creative problem-solving.

Inhibition control

Inhibition control is your ability to steer or manage your thoughts, emotions and actions. This is a huge part of executive function, and we’d be unable to control our impulses and thoughts without it. There are two main ways that inhibition control works:

Higher-level executive functions

Working memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibition control are the foundation of executive function. There are also higher-level processes that can happen, including:

What are some examples of executive dysfunction?

Because executive functions involve so many processes inside of your brain, executive dysfunction can take many forms. Some examples of executive dysfunction include:

Possible Causes

What are the most common causes of executive dysfunction.

Experts don’t fully understand why executive dysfunction happens, or why it can take so many different forms. However, experts have linked this issue to several conditions that affect the way your brain works, including:

Brain damage and degenerative diseases

Executive dysfunction can also happen if there’s damage to or deterioration of the areas of your brain that contribute to executive function abilities. Some common examples of conditions or circumstances that can cause damage or deterioration include:

Care and Treatment

How is executive dysfunction treated.

In general, the treatments for conditions that cause executive dysfunction can vary based on the condition itself and a person’s circumstances, health history and preferences. Because a variety of options is available, your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you what treatments are available and most likely to help you.

For the most part, mental health conditions that cause executive dysfunction are treatable, but this can vary from case to case.

Mental health conditions

When executive dysfunction happens because of a mental health condition, the goal is usually to treat the underlying condition causing it. That’s because executive dysfunction is often just one of the many symptoms that happens along with these disorders.

By treating the underlying disorder, it’s often possible to reduce the impact of executive dysfunction. With treatment, the effects of executive dysfunction are often minimal or barely noticeable. The most common treatment methods for mental health conditions that cause executive dysfunction include:

Brain damage and degenerative disease treatments

The treatments for executive dysfunction from brain damage or degenerative brain conditions can vary widely. For some of these conditions, direct treatment or supportive care can help. For others, the underlying condition may improve on its own without treatment. Unfortunately, some of these conditions aren’t treatable. Your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you what kind of treatments are available and what results you can expect.

What can I do at home to deal with executive dysfunction?

It’s not possible to self-diagnose and treat conditions that cause executive dysfunction on your own. Because of this, you should see your healthcare provider if you suspect you have symptoms of executive dysfunction. They can either offer you treatment recommendations, such as medication, or suggest providers who can help you with other treatment options.

Is executive dysfunction preventable?

Executive dysfunction isn’t preventable when it happens because of mental health conditions or degenerative brain diseases.

The only ways to prevent executive dysfunction involve avoiding brain injuries that can cause it. Ways you can avoid this kind of damage include:

When to Call the Doctor

When should a doctor or healthcare provider diagnose and treat executive dysfunction.

If you notice this symptom and it’s disrupting your life and usual activities, then you should talk to your healthcare provider. You should also talk to your child’s pediatrician if you notice they’re showing signs of executive dysfunction, especially the symptoms that overlap with ADHD or any other mental health conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between executive dysfunction and procrastination.

Procrastination doesn’t happen because of an issue or problem with part of your brain. It’s a conscious choice to delay doing something.

When you have a condition that causes executive dysfunction, the parts of your brain that control self-motivation, planning and inhibition control don’t work as they would in a person without this condition. That means it’s not something you can easily control, if you can control it at all. Because of this, executive dysfunction isn’t procrastination, laziness or simply not caring.

Is executive dysfunction a symptom of ADHD?

Yes, executive dysfunction is one of the key symptoms of ADHD. Research shows that the parts of the brain involving executive functions tend to be smaller, less developed or less active in people with ADHD. That’s why ADHD nearly always involves this symptom. It’s also a common feature among many conditions that affect people who are neurodivergent .

What does executive dysfunction feel like?

People who have executive dysfunction are often very — even painfully — aware of the dysfunction. How it feels can take different forms, depending on what people are doing when they experience it:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Executive dysfunction is a symptom that experts are still researching and trying to better understand. What experts do know is that executive dysfunction disrupts some of the key functions of your brain that help you manage and control your thoughts, emotions and actions. On the outside, a person with executive dysfunction might seem careless or indifferent, but many people who experience this are uncomfortably — even painfully — aware of their struggle.

If this is something you face, then talking to your healthcare provider can be the first step to managing or even overcoming this issue. A trained provider can offer suggestions and resources that can help you. If you have a loved one who struggles with executive dysfunction, then patience, listening, understanding and support can make a big difference. With the right support and treatment, many people can learn to manage this symptom and reduce the disruption it has on their lives.

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problem solving function in the brain

Inside the Brain

A tour of how the mind works, three pounds, three parts.

Your brain is your most powerful organ, yet weighs only about three pounds. It has a texture similar to firm jelly.

The brain has three main parts:

The cerebrum fills up most of your skull. It is involved in remembering, problem solving, thinking, and feeling. It also controls movement.

The cerebellum sits at the back of your head, under the cerebrum. It controls coordination and balance.

The brain stem sits beneath your cerebrum in front of your cerebellum. It connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.

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Supply Lines

Your brain is nourished by one of your body's richest networks of blood vessels. When you are thinking hard, your brain may use up to 50 percent of the fuel and oxygen.

With each heartbeat, arteries carry about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your brain, where billions of cells use about 20 percent of the oxygen and fuel your blood carries.

The whole vessel network includes veins and capillaries in addition to arteries.

The Cortex: "Thinking Wrinkles"

Your brain's wrinkled surface is a specialized outer layer of the cerebrum called the cortex. Scientists have "mapped" the cortex by identifying areas strongly linked to certain functions.

Cortex Regions

View the specific regions of the cortex:

Left Brain/Right Brain

Your brain is divided into right and left halves. Experts are not certain how the "left brain" and "right brain" may differ in function. In most people, the language area is chiefly on the left.

problem solving function in the brain

The Neuron Forest

Neurons are the chief type of cell destroyed by Alzheimer's disease.

An adult brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells .

Branches connect the nerve cells at more than 100 trillion points. Scientists call this dense, branching network a "neuron forest."

Signals traveling through the neuron forest form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Cell Signaling

The real work of your brain goes on in individual cells. The neurotransmitters travel across the synapse, carrying signals to other cells. Scientists have identified dozens of neurotransmitters. Alzheimer's disease disrupts both the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters.

Signals that form memories and thoughts move through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge .

Nerve cells connect to one another at synapses .

When a charge reaches a synapse, it may trigger release of tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters .

Signal Coding

100 billion nerve cells. 100 trillion synapses. Dozens of neurotransmitters. This "strength in numbers" provides your brain's raw material. Over time, our experiences create patterns in signal type and strength. These patterns of activity explain how, at the cellular level, our brains code our thoughts, memories, skills and sense of who we are.

problem solving function in the brain

The positron emission tomography (PET) scan on the left shows typical patterns of brain activity associated with:

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Brain Dysfunction by Location

, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology, University of Mississippi Medical Center

Frontal Lobe Damage

Parietal lobe damage, temporal lobe damage, occipital lobe damage, limbic lobe damage, other locations.

Because different areas of the brain control specific functions, the location of brain damage determines the type of dysfunction that results.

Parts of the Brain

Which side of the brain is affected is also important because the functions of the two halves of the cerebrum (cerebral hemispheres) are not identical. Some functions of the brain are performed exclusively by one hemisphere. For example, movement and sensation on one side of the body are controlled by the hemisphere on the opposite side. Other functions are performed mainly by one hemisphere, which is said to be dominant for that function, and the other hemisphere is said to be nondominant. For example, the left hemisphere mainly controls language in most people. This characteristic is called left-hemisphere language dominance. Damage to only one hemisphere of the brain may cause complete loss of such functions.

However, most functions (such as memory) require coordination of several areas in both hemispheres. For such functions to be completely lost, both hemispheres must be damaged.

Specific patterns of dysfunction can be related to the area of the brain that has been damaged.

Usually, doctors can diagnose the type of dysfunction by examining the person. They ask questions designed to evaluate specific brain functions. Imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are usually needed to identify the cause of the damage.


Initiating many actions

Controlling learned motor skills, such as writing, playing musical instruments, and tying shoelaces

Controlling complex intellectual processes, such as speech, thought, concentration, problem-solving, and planning for the future

Controlling facial expressions and hand and arm gestures

Coordinating expressions and gestures with mood and feelings

Generally, damage to the frontal lobes causes loss of the ability to solve problems and to plan and initiate actions, such as crossing the street or answering a complex question (sometimes called executive functions). But some specific impairments vary depending on which part of the frontal lobe is damaged.

If the back part of the frontal lobe (which controls voluntary movements) is damaged, weakness or paralysis can result. Because each side of the brain controls movement of the opposite side of the body, damage to the left hemisphere causes weakness on the right side of the body, and vice versa.

If the middle part of the frontal lobe is damaged, people may become apathetic, inattentive, and unmotivated. Their thinking becomes slow, and their responses to questions are very slow.

If the middle back part of the left frontal lobe (Broca area) is damaged, people may have difficulty expressing themselves in words—an impairment called Broca (expressive) aphasia Aphasia Aphasia is partial or complete loss of the ability to express or understand spoken or written language. It results from damage to the areas of the brain that control language. People may have... read more .

If the front part of the frontal lobe is damaged, any of the following may result:

Difficulty temporarily holding information available for processing (called working memory)

Reduced fluency of speech

Apathy (lack of emotion, interest, and concern)


Delayed responses to questions

A striking lack of inhibition, including socially inappropriate behavior

People who lose their inhibitions may be inappropriately elated (euphoric) or depressed, excessively argumentative or passive, and vulgar. They may show no regard for the consequences of their behavior. They may also repeat what they say. Some people develop similar symptoms when they get older or if dementia develops. These symptoms may result from degeneration of the frontal lobe.

When Specific Areas of the Brain Are Damaged

Interpreting sensory information from the rest of the body

Combining impressions of form, texture, and weight into general perceptions

Influencing mathematical skills and language comprehension

Storing spatial memories that enable people to orient themselves in space (know where they are) and to maintain a sense of direction (know where they are going)

Processing information that helps people know the position of their body parts

Certain functions tend to be controlled more by one of the parietal lobes (usually the left). It is considered the dominant lobe when it controls language. The other lobe (nondominant) has other functions, such as enabling people to be aware of how the body relates to the space around it.

Damage to the front part of the parietal lobe on one side causes numbness and impairs sensation on the opposite side of the body. Affected people have difficulty identifying a sensation’s location and type (pain, heat, cold, or vibration). People may have difficulty recognizing objects by touch (that is, by their texture and shape).

If the middle part is damaged, people cannot tell the right from the left side (called right-left disorientation) and have problems with calculations and writing. They may have problems sensing where parts of their body are (a sense called proprioception).

If the nondominant (usually right) parietal lobe is damaged, people may be unable to do simple skilled tasks, such as combing their hair or dressing—called apraxia Apraxia Apraxia is loss of the ability to do tasks that require remembering patterns or sequences of movements. People with apraxia cannot remember or do the sequence of movements needed to complete... read more . They may also have trouble understanding how objects relate to each other in space. As a result, they may have trouble drawing and constructing things, and they may get lost in their own neighborhood. These people may also ignore the serious nature of their disorder or deny its existence. They may neglect the side of the body opposite the brain damage (usually the left side).

Generating memory and emotions

Processing immediate events into recent and long-term memory

Storing and retrieving long-term memories

Comprehending sounds and images, enabling people to recognize other people and objects and to integrate hearing and speech

Testing a Person With Aphasia

If certain areas of the right temporal lobe are damaged, memory for sounds and music may be impaired. As a result, people may have trouble singing.

The occipital lobes have the following functions:

Processing and interpreting vision

Enabling people to form visual memories

Integrating visual perceptions with the spatial information provided by the adjacent parietal lobes

If both sides of the occipital lobe are damaged, people cannot recognize objects by sight, even though the eyes themselves are functioning normally. This disorder is called cortical blindness. Some people with cortical blindness are unaware that they cannot see. Instead, they often make up descriptions of what they see (called confabulation). This disorder is called Anton syndrome.

Seizures that involve the occipital lobe can cause hallucinations involving vision. For example, people may see lines of color when they look in a certain direction.

Receiving and integrating information from many areas of the brain, enabling people to experience and express emotions

Helping form and retrieve memories

Helping people connect memories to the emotions experienced when the memories form

Damage that affects the limbic lobe usually results in a variety of problems.

Seizures that result from damage to the temporal lobe area in the limbic lobe usually last only a few minutes. At first, people may not be able to control their feelings or to think clearly. Or they may smell bad odors that are not there (a type of hallucination). They may appear dazed and unaware of their surroundings and make automatic movements, such as repeatedly swallowing or smacking their lips. During the seizure, some people have personality changes such as humorlessness, extreme religiosity, and obsessiveness. People may also have an overwhelming urge to write.

Many functions of the brain are performed by several areas of the brain working together (networks), not by a single area in the brain. Damage to these networks can cause the following:

Agnosia Agnosia Agnosia is loss of the ability to identify objects using one or more of the senses. Symptoms vary depending on where the brain is damaged. Doctors determine whether people have agnosia by asking... read more (loss of the ability to identify objects using one or more of the senses)

Amnesia Amnesia Amnesia is total or partial loss of the ability to recall experiences or events that happened in the preceding few seconds, in the preceding few days, further back in time, or after the event... read more (total or partial loss of the ability to recall experiences or events)

Aphasia Aphasia Aphasia is partial or complete loss of the ability to express or understand spoken or written language. It results from damage to the areas of the brain that control language. People may have... read more (partial or complete loss of the ability to express or understand spoken or written language)

Apraxia Apraxia Apraxia is loss of the ability to do tasks that require remembering patterns or sequences of movements. People with apraxia cannot remember or do the sequence of movements needed to complete... read more (loss of the ability to do tasks that require remembering patterns or sequences of movements)

Dysarthria Dysarthria Dysarthria is loss of the ability to articulate words normally. Speech may be jerky, staccato, breathy, irregular, imprecise, or monotonous, but people can understand language and use it correctly... read more (loss of the ability to articulate words normally) may be caused by damage to areas of the brain or cranial nerves that control the muscles involved in producing speech or by damage to the nerve fibers that connect these areas.

problem solving function in the brain

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The brain’s cerebral cortex is the outermost layer that gives the brain its characteristic wrinkly appearance. The cerebral cortex is divided lengthways into two  cerebral hemispheres connected by the corpus callosum . Traditionally, each of the hemispheres has been divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital . 

problem solving function in the brain


Although we now know that most brain functions rely on many different regions across the entire brain working in conjunction, it is still true that each lobe carries out the bulk of certain functions.

Lobes of the brain QBI neuroscience

Bumps and grooves of the brain

In humans, the lobes of the brain are divided by a number of bumps and grooves. These are known as gyri (bumps) and sulci (groves or fissures). The folding of the brain, and the resulting gyri and sulci, increases its surface area and enables more cerebral cortex matter to fit inside the skull.

problem solving function in the brain

Frontal lobe

The frontal lobe is separated from the parietal lobe by a space called the  central sulcus , and from the temporal lobe by the  lateral sulcus .

The frontal lobe is generally where higher executive functions including emotional regulation, planning, reasoning and problem solving occur. This is why in frontotemporal dementia , personality changes are often the first signs of the disease.

The most famous case of frontal lobe dysfunction is the story of railway worker  Phineas Gage . In 1848, Gage was using a tamping iron to pack in gunpowder for blasting a tunnel through rock. While his head was slightly turned, a mistaken strike sparked an explosion that forced the rod upwards into his left eye and out through his skull.

Miraculously, Gage survived, blinded in his left eye and sustaining damage to much of his left frontal lobe. After the accident, others noticed changes in Gage’s personality: before the accident, he was known as responsible and hard-working, but afterwards, he became disrespectful, foul-mouthed and had difficulty carrying out plans. The frontal lobe also contains the primary motor cortex, the major region responsible for voluntary movement.  Image: In 1848, Phineas Gage survived an explosion that drove a tamping iron through his left frontal lobe. (Image: Ratiu et al /  CC BY-SA 2.1 )

Parietal lobe

The parietal lobe is behind the frontal lobe, separated by the central sulcus. Areas in the parietal lobe are responsible for integrating sensory information, including touch, temperature, pressure and pain. 

Because of the processing that occurs in the parietal lobe, we are able to, for example, discern from touch alone that two objects touching the skin at nearby points are distinct, rather than one object. This process is called two-point discrimination. Different areas of the body have more sensory receptors, and so are more sensitive than others in discerning distinct points. Using callipers or a folded paperclip, and asking a subject to keep their eyes closed, this test can be used to check parietal lobe function. 

problem solving function in the brain

Temporal lobe

Separated from the frontal lobe by the lateral fissure, the temporal lobe also contains regions dedicated to processing sensory information, particularly important for hearing, recognising language, and forming memories.  

Auditory information

The temporal lobe contains the primary auditory cortex, which receives auditory information from the ears and secondary areas, and processes the information so we understand what we’re hearing (e.g. words, laughing, a baby crying).  

Visual processing

Certain areas in the temporal lobe make sense of complex visual information including faces and scenes.  

The medial (closer to the middle of the brain) temporal lobe contains the  hippocampus , a region of the brain important for  memory , learning and emotions.    

Occipital lobe

The occipital lobe is the major visual processing centre in the brain.

The  primary visual cortex , also known as V1, receives visual information from the eyes. This information is relayed to several secondary visual processing areas, which interpret depth, distance, location and the identity of seen objects.

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Science News

Playing brain training games regularly doesn’t boost brainpower, even among dedicated trainers, the games didn’t boost brainpower in a large, real-world test.

person playing brain training game on smartphone

Games to train the brain (one shown) do not boost thinking abilities, a new, real-world study suggests.

diego_cervo/iStock / Getty Images Plus

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By Jackie Rocheleau

May 25, 2021 at 11:00 am

It’s an attractive idea: By playing online problem-solving, matching and other games for a few minutes a day, people can improve such mental abilities as reasoning, verbal skills and memory. But whether these games deliver on those promises is up for debate.

“For every study that finds some evidence , there’s an equal number of papers that find no evidence ,” says Bobby Stojanoski, a cognitive neuroscientist at Western University in Ontario ( SN: 3/8/17 ; SN: 5/9/17 ).

Now, in perhaps the biggest real-world test of these programs, Stojanoski and colleagues pitted more than 1,000 people who regularly use brain trainers against around 7,500 people who don’t do the mini brain workouts. There was little difference between how both groups performed on a series of tests of their thinking abilities , suggesting that brain training doesn’t live up to its name, the scientists report in the April Journal of Experimental Psychology: General .

“They put brain training to the test,” says Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, a cognitive aging scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While the study doesn’t show why brain trainers aren’t seeing benefits, it does show there is no link “between the amount of time spent with the brain training programs and cognition,” Stine-Morrow says. “That was pretty cool.”

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The researchers recruited 8,563 volunteers globally through Cambridge Brain Sciences, a Toronto-based company that provides assessments to measure healthy brain function. (While several of the researchers are affiliated with the company, it didn’t receive funding for the study.) Participants filled out an online questionnaire about their training habits, opinions about training benefits and which, if any, program they used. Some 1,009 participants reported using brain training programs for about eight months, on average, though durations ranged from two weeks to more than five years.

Next, the volunteers completed 12 cognitive tests assessing memory, reasoning and verbal skills. They faced Simon-like memory exercises, such spatial reasoning tasks as mentally rotating objects, pattern-finding puzzles and strategy challenges. 

When researchers looked at the results, they saw that brain trainers on average had no mental edge over the other group in memory, verbal skills and reasoning. Even among the most dedicated, who had used training programs for at least 18 months, brain training didn’t boost thinking abilities above the level of people who didn’t use the programs.

That’s not because brain trainers have poorer function to start with and then improved. Participants who had trained for less than a month, and presumably wouldn’t have reaped significant benefits from the programs yet, performed on par with people who didn’t train at all.

“No matter how we sliced the data, we were unable to find any evidence that brain training was associated with cognitive abilities,” says Stojanoski. That held true whether the team analyzed participants by age, program used, education or socioeconomic status – all were cognitively similar to the group who didn’t use the programs.

Brain training may be beneficial in specific scenarios, Stojanoski says. But “part of our goal was to look at brain training in the real world.”  

That real world may be the best brain trainer, Stine-Morrow says. While it’s possible to improve mental abilities, Stine-Morrow advocates practicing those skills in different real-life situations. “That’s a much better use of one’s time than sitting at a computer and doing little tasks.”

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An Overview of Frontal Lobe Damage

Symptoms of dysfunction can be physical, behavioral, or cognitive

problem solving function in the brain

Diana Apetauerova, MD, is board-certified in neurology with a subspecialty in movement disorders. She is an associate clinical professor of neurology at Tufts University.

Frequently Asked Questions

The frontal lobe is a large part of the brain. It extends from the front of the brain almost halfway to the back.

Damage to the frontal lobe can cause a range of symptoms. These can include behavioral problems, depression, and a loss of strength in the muscles.

A variety of conditions can damage the frontal lobe, including stroke , head trauma , and dementia .

This article discusses the frontal lobe of the brain, its functions, and the various conditions that can cause frontal lobe damage. It also discusses how frontal lobe damage is diagnosed and treated.

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

Where Is the Frontal Lobe and What Does It Do?

The brain has two hemispheres, or halves: left and the right. The hemispheres are divided into three sections: the forebrain, the midbrain , and the hindbrain.

Each section has specific functions:

The forebrain includes a major part of the brain called the cerebrum . The outer layer of the cerebrum is called the cerebral cortex.

The frontal lobe is one of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex. The other lobes are the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe, and the occipital lobe.

Each of the four lobes has specific functions. Damage to any one of them will cause problems with these functions. The sections below describe the main functions of the frontal lobe.

Social and Emotional Skills

The frontal lobe is responsible for decision making and self-control. It also helps regulate emotions. This is the part of the brain that manages your interactions with other people. The frontal lobe regulates your behavior and helps you know what is socially acceptable and what is not.

Motor Function

The back of the frontal lobe is called the motor strip. This region controls and directs deliberate body movements.

The left side of the motor strip controls the right side of the body. The right side of the motor strip controls the left side of the body.

Language, Thinking, Reasoning, and Imagining

The frontal lobe controls high-level thinking and problem solving. It also helps you pay attention.

The human frontal lobe is much larger than that of other animals. It is also more complex, which helps humans perform complex tasks, innovate, and imagine.

Some functions are controlled primarily by the left frontal lobe. Others are controlled primarily by the right frontal lobe.

Everyone's frontal lobe has a dominant side . In most people, it is on the left, but it can also be on the right.

The dominant side of the frontal lobe is involved in a number of functions, including:

The non-dominant frontal lobe is involved with more creative functions, including:

The frontal lobe is a large part of the brain located in the cerebral cortex. It controls a broad range of functions including social and emotional skills, motor function, language, creativity, and rational thought. 

Symptoms of Frontal Lobe Damage

Because the frontal lobe has so many functions, a wide variety of symptoms can occur when it's damaged. Frontal lobe damage may lead to one or more of the following:

Damage to the frontal lobe is often caused by a stroke. It can also be caused by a degenerative disease, which is a disease that gets worse over time.

There are other, less common conditions that can also affect the frontal lobe.

Dementia is a term used to describe conditions that cause memory loss and other problems with thinking and reasoning.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes. FTD is the second most common cause of dementia in people under 65.

People with FTD usually have behavior and personality changes. They may also have trouble with language.

People with a type of Alzheimer’s disease called frontal-variant Alzheimer’s disease may have similar symptoms. This form of Alzheimer's disease is sometimes misdiagnosed as FTD.

Strokes can also damage the frontal lobe. When blood flow to the frontal lobe is interrupted, it causes a loss of function in that part of the brain. This can also happen as a result of bleeding in the brain.

Vascular dementia can happen after multiple small strokes. This is the most common cause of frontal lobe impairment. Vascular dementia has been linked to Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative disorders of the brain.

Other Causes

Other conditions may cause damage or injury to the frontal lobe, including:

Diagnosis of Frontal Lobe Brain Injury

Healthcare providers can diagnose frontal lobe strokes and infections with diagnostic scans. Options include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT or CAT).

An MRI creates a two or three dimensional image of the brain using a magnetic field and radio waves. A CT scan creates a 3D image from multiple X-rays.

Some causes, like dementia or a traumatic brain injury, may appear on a scan as atrophy, or brain tissue loss. The scan may also show nothing.

MRI and CT scans are both effective tools for diagnosing vascular dementia.

A complete neuropsychological evaluation or a concussion test can help a healthcare provider assess damage to the frontal lobe. These tests look at:

Treatment of Frontal Lobe Brain Injury

Strategies for treating frontal lobe damage are different depending on the cause. For example, an infection can be treated with antibiotics. Brain tumors can be surgically removed or treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

There is currently no cure for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and dementia. Medication and lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms.


Motor weakness caused by frontal lobe damage can be treated with rehabilitation. This involves strengthening and optimizing remaining motor skills.

Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy

Rehabilitation can be difficult for cognitive and social problems caused by frontal lobe damage. Therapy that helps patients regulate emotions and curb impulsive behavior can be helpful.

The frontal lobe of the brain controls a number of important functions, including emotions, self-control, movement, language, and rational thought. Frontal lobe damage may affect any of these functions.

Frontal lobe damage can have many causes, including dementia and other degenerative brain diseases, stroke, infections, or brain tumors.

Frontal lobe damage can sometimes be diagnosed with imaging scans. In other cases, a neuropsychological evaluation may be necessary. 

Treatment for frontal lobe damage can include medication, surgery, rehabilitation, or therapy.

The frontal lobe is responsible for higher-level thinking (reasoning, problem solving, concentration, memory). It produces speech and language, controls voluntary movements, regulates personality and social behaviors, and plays an important role in expressing emotions.

Some issues resulting from a frontal lobe traumatic brain injury, such as mood swings, may improve within a few months. Other issues will cause ongoing difficulty. Seek counseling and advice on medication that may help with symptoms. Caregivers should model behaviors that the injured person can imitate, be patient and calm when a loved one displays anxiety or extreme emotions, and be prepared to restrain the person if there's a risk they'll harm themselves or others.

A stroke is the most common cause of frontal lobe brain injury. During a stroke, blood flow to arteries in the frontal lobe temporarily stops. This damages the surrounding area of the brain. Multiple strokes can lead to dementia.

Sherwood CC, Smaers JB. What’s the fuss over human frontal lobe evolution? Trends Cogn Sci. 2013;17(9):432–433. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2013.06.008

Cleveland Clinic. Brain: Temporal lobe, vagal nerve, & frontal lobe .

Pirau L, Lui F. Frontal lobe syndrome . In: StatPearls [Internet] . Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2021.

Olney NT, Spina S, Miller BL. Frontotemporal dementia . Neurol Clin. 2017;35(2):339-74. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2017.01.008

Sawyer RP, Rodriguez-Porcel F, Hagen M, Shatz R, Espay AJ. Diagnosing the frontal variant of Alzheimer’s disease: a clinician’s yellow brick road .  J Clin Mov Disord . 2017;4(1):1-9. doi:10.1186/s40734-017-0052-4

Korczyn AD, Vakhapova V, Grinberg LT. Vascular dementia . J Neurol Sci . 2012;322(1-2):2-10. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2012.03.027

Li L, Liu J. The effect of pediatric traumatic brain injury on behavioral outcomes: a systematic review .  Dev Med Child Neurol . 2013;55(1):37‐45. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.2012.04414.x

Beynon R, Sterne JA, Wilcock G, et al. Is MRI better than CT for detecting a vascular component to dementia? a systematic review and meta-analysis . BMC Neurol . 2012;12:33. doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-33

Collins A, Koechlin E. Reasoning, learning, and creativity: frontal lobe function and human decision-making . PLoS Biol. 2012;10(3):e1001293. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001293

Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC). Emotional Problems After Traumatic Brain Injury .

By Jose Vega MD, PhD Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.

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Study: What Brain Scans Reveal About Learning Math

Illustration of a small child and gears for a brain

A new UVA study will examine brain data of elementary-age students to explore how memory systems support math learning. (Illustration by Ziniu Chen, University Communications)

When you’re solving a challenging math problem, you know your brain is working hard. But what, exactly, is going on in there? Despite decades of research into math teaching and learning, there is still much to learn about how specific brain functions are tied to math skills.

A new University of Virginia study aims to unlock that knowledge. Funded by a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, the five-year study will examine brain data of elementary-age students to explore how memory systems support math learning.

Tanya Evans, who joined UVA’s School of Education and Human Development faculty in 2018 , will lead the study in collaboration with Ian Lyons at Georgetown University. In the relatively new, interdisciplinary field of educational neuroscience, Evans studies brain data to understand the fundamental building blocks of how children learn.

“Some of our previous work points to behavioral evidence for memory systems supporting math skills, so this was a way to extend that into the brain domain and understand the mechanism by which that occurs,” she said.

Tanya Evans headshot

Tanya Evans, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist, is a research assistant professor in the School of Education and Human Development. (Contributed photo)

Why study math skills in particular? Despite an abundance of research into how memory affects important early learning skills like language and reading, Evans said, the fundamental memory systems that underpin math learning are poorly understood.

Evans is part of the integrated Translational Research Health Institute of Virginia, or iTHRIV, a multi-institutional collaboration that facilitates health-related research across Virginia. The organization, where Evans holds a position as a scholar, focuses on connecting researchers with the resources they need to serve the needs of the commonwealth through interdisciplinary, team-based research. This work is also supported through the Supporting Transformative Autism Research initiative at UVA. Evans’ mentors as an iTHRIV scholar are Kevin Pelphrey, Harrison-Wood Jefferson Scholars Foundation Professor of Neurology, and Steve Boker, a professor of quantitative psychology, both of UVA.

“UVA is extremely collaborative,” Evans said. “The field I work in is incredibly interdisciplinary, so it’s important to have a supportive environment that lends itself to that collaboration and opens lines across schools. It’s quite easy for administration and bureaucracy to get in the way of collaborative science, but UVA does a great job of breaking down those boundaries.”

The study will focus on two key memory systems: declarative memory, or remembering facts, data and events; and procedural memory, a type of long-term memory related to performing tasks or skills, like riding a bike or tying your shoes.

We can do this. Keep going, UVA.

Researchers plan to gather brain data by scanning children’s brains with magnetic resonance imaging machines, or MRIs, while the children complete arithmetic tasks and declarative and procedural memory tasks.

The longitudinal study will enroll two groups of children in first through fifth grades. Both groups will participate in two rounds of MRI scans over two years, so that researchers can track how their brains change over time. “We find that kids do better than adults with MRIs in general because they’re used to playing in small places,” Evans said. “For them, it’s like a game.”

By looking for similarities in brain activity when children complete memory tasks and math tasks, researchers hope to establish a link between memory and math. Ultimately, by revealing neurological links between specific memory systems and important math skills, the results could help adults better teach math – for children with and without learning difficulties.

“If we find that certain parts of these memory skills are really important for certain parts of math learning, we can use that to potentially design interventions that use these skills to bolster math learning,” she explained.

But Evans has bigger ideas for how brain data can eventually help researchers, teachers and caregivers understand how best to help children thrive in school. She hopes that studies like this one could be applied to numerous other types of learning.

“Big picture, I’m interested in school readiness skills,” Evans said. Readiness skills include not only math and reading, but also socio-emotional skills like listening and cooperating with others, which are equally important in the classroom.

 With growing opportunities for interdisciplinary research provided by programs like iTHRIV, she is likely to continue this type of research in the future. “It’s been incredible to interact with other scholars, to have the opportunity to gain mentors more broadly across Grounds, and to just learn a lot about team science,” she said.

“Tanya definitely is somebody who epitomizes the team science aspect, which is one of the cornerstones for our program – team science and data science,” said Jennifer Kirkham, iTHRIV Scholars program manager. “She’s an exceptional role model for folks on incorporating team science and working across disciplines in projects.”

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Laura Hoxworth

School of Education and Human Development

[email protected] 434-924-5266

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May 4, 2021


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How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems

Summary: Using AI technology, researchers provide new insight into how the human brain connects individual episodic memories to help solve problems.

Source: Cell Press.

Humans have the ability to creatively combine their memories to solve problems and draw new insights, a process that depends on memories for specific events known as episodic memory. But although episodic memory has been extensively studied in the past, current theories do not easily explain how people can use their episodic memories to arrive at these novel insights.

Results from a team of neuroscientists and artificial intelligence researchers at DeepMind, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), publishing in the journal Neuron on September 19, provide a window into the way the human brain connects individual episodic memories to solve problems.

For example, imagine you see a woman driving a car on your street. The next day, you see a man driving the exact same car on your street. This might trigger the memory of the woman you saw the day before, and you might reason that the pair live together, given that they share a car.

The researchers propose a novel brain mechanism that would allow retrieved memories to trigger the retrieval of further, related memories in this way. This mechanism allows the retrieval of multiple linked memories, which then enable the brain to create new kinds of insights like these.

In common with standard theories of episodic memory, the authors posit that individual memories are stored as separate memory traces in a brain region called the hippocampus.

“Episodic memories can tell you whether you have met someone before, or where you parked your car,” says Raphael Koster (@raphael_koster), a researcher at DeepMind (@DeepMindAI). “The hippocampal system supports this type of memory, which is crucial for rapid learning.”

Unlike standard theories, the new theory explores a neglected anatomical connection that loops out of the hippocampus to the neighboring entorhinal cortex but then immediately passes back in. It is this recurrent connection, the researchers thought, that allows memories retrieved from the hippocampus to trigger the retrieval of further, related memories.

The researchers devised a way of testing this theory by taking high-resolution 7-Tesla functional MRI scans from 26 young men and women as they performed a task that required them to draw insights across separate events.

The volunteers were shown pairs of photographs: one of a face and one of an object or a place. Each individual object and place appeared in two separate photo pairs, each of which included a different face. This meant that every photo pair was linked with another pair through the shared object or place image.

In a second phase of the experiment, the researchers tested whether the participants could infer the indirect connection between these linked pairs of photos by showing one face and asking the participants to choose between two other faces. One of the choices–the correct one–had been paired with the same object or place image, and one had not.

The researchers guessed that the presented face would trigger the retrieval of the paired object or place and thus spark brain activity that would pass out of the hippocampus into the entorhinal cortex. Crucially, the researchers also expected to see evidence that this activity would then pass back into the hippocampus to trigger the retrieval of the correct linked face.

“Using specialized techniques developed in our lab in Magdeburg, we were able to separate out the parts of the entorhinal cortex that provide the input to the hippocampus,” says Yi Chen, researcher at Otto von Guericke University. “This allowed us to precisely measure the patterns of activation in the hippocampus input and output separately.”

The researchers trained a computer algorithm to distinguish between activation for scenes and objects within these input and output regions. The algorithm was then applied when only faces were displayed on the screen. If the algorithm indicated the presence of scene or object information on these trials, it could only be driven by retrieved memories of the linked scene or object photos.

“Our data showed that when the hippocampus retrieves a memory, it doesn’t just pass it to the rest of the brain,” says DeepMind’s Dharshan Kumaran (@dharshsky). “Instead, it recirculates the activation back into the hippocampus, triggering the retrieval of other related memories.”


The researchers think of the algorithm’s results as a synthesis of new and old theories.

“The results could be thought of as the best of both worlds: you preserve the ability to remember individual experiences by keeping them separate, while at the same time allowing related memories to be combined on the fly at the point of retrieval,” says Kumaran. “This ability is useful for understanding how the different parts of a story fit together, for example–something not possible if you just retrieve a single memory.”

This shows the location of the thalamus in the brain

Nicotine Dose in a Single Cigarette Blocks Estrogen Production in Women’s Brains

The authors believe that their results could help AI learn faster in the future.

“While there are many domains where AI is superior, humans still have an advantage when tasks depend on the flexible use of episodic memory,” says Martin Chadwick (@MartinJChadwick), another researcher at DeepMind. “If we can understand the mechanisms that allow people to do this, the hope is that we can replicate them within our AI systems, providing them with a much greater capacity for rapidly solving novel problems.”

Funding: This research was funded by DeepMind and the German Research foundation.

Source: Erin Kohnke – Cell Press Publisher: Organized by Image Source: image is in the public domain. Original Research: Open access research for “Big-Loop Recurrence within the Hippocampal System Supports Integration of Information across Episodes” by Raphael Koster, Martin J. Chadwick, Yi Chen, David Berron, Andrea Banino, Emrah Düzel, Demis Hassabis, and Dharshan Kumaran in Neuron . Published September 19 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.08.009

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Cell Press”How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 19 September 2018. <>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Cell Press(2018, September 19). How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems. NeuroscienceNews . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Cell Press”How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems.” (accessed September 19, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]

Big-Loop Recurrence within the Hippocampal System Supports Integration of Information across Episodes

Recent evidence challenges the widely held view that the hippocampus is specialized for episodic memory, by demonstrating that it also underpins the integration of information across experiences. Contemporary computational theories propose that these two contrasting functions can be accomplished by big-loop recurrence, whereby the output of the system is recirculated back into the hippocampus. We use ultra-high-resolution fMRI to provide support for this hypothesis, by showing that retrieved information is presented as a new input on the superficial entorhinal cortex—driven by functional connectivity between the deep and superficial entorhinal layers. Further, the magnitude of this laminar connectivity correlated with inferential performance, demonstrating its importance for behavior. Our findings offer a novel perspective on information processing within the hippocampus and support a unifying framework in which the hippocampus captures higher-order structure across experiences, by creating a dynamic memory space from separate episodic codes for individual experiences.

Love to read about developments in the interests of all people. Wish that scientists took a firmer stance against the militarization of our lives.

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Frontal Lobe: Function, Location, anatomical Structure & Damage

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The frontal lobe is located behind the forehead, at the front of the brain. These lobes are part of the cerebral cortex and are the largest brain structure.

The frontal lobe’s main functions are typically associated with ‘higher’ cognitive functions, including decision-making, problem-solving, thought, and attention.

It contains the motor cortex , which is involved in planning and coordinating movement; the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher-level cognitive functioning; and Broca’s Area , which is essential for language production

Frontal Lobe Described with Labels Anatomy

Below is a list of some of the associated functions of the frontal lobe:

Executive processes (capacity to plan, organize, initiate, and self-monitor) Voluntary behavior Problem-solving Voluntary motor control Intelligence Language processing Language comprehension Self-control Emotional control

The frontal lobes are believed to be our behavior and emotional control centers, meaning that this area is activated when needing to control our behaviors to be socially appropriate and with controlling our emotional responses, especially in social situations.

Moreover, the frontal lobes are thought to be the home of our personalities. Alike to most lobes in the brain, there are two frontal lobes, located in the left and right hemispheres.

Each lobe controls the operations on opposite sides of the body: the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and vice versa.

It is believed the left frontal lobe is the most dominant lobe and works predominantly with language, logical thinking, and analytical reasoning.

The right frontal lobe, on the other hand, is most associated with non-verbal abilities, creativity, imagination, and musical, and art skills.

The frontal lobe, like other structures of the brain, does not always work in isolation from each other. The frontal lobes work alongside other brain regions in order to control a variety of functions.


The frontal lobe contains the motor cortex, which is involved in planning and coordinating movement; the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher-level cognitive functioning; and Broca’s area, which is essential for language production.

frontal lobe structure

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is primarily responsible for the ‘higher’ brain functions of the frontal lobes, including decision-making, problem-solving, intelligence, and emotion regulation.

This area has also been found to be associated with the social skills and personality of humans.

This idea is supported by the famous case study of Phineas Gage, whose personality changed after losing a part of his prefrontal cortex after an iron rod impaled his head.

The frontal cortex has also been shown to be activated when an experience becomes conscious. Different ideas and perceptions are bound together in this region, both of which are necessary for conscious experience.  Concluding that this area may be especially important for consciousness.

Cognitive disorders that have been shown to be linked to this region are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADH ), Autism, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.

The prefrontal cortex can be further divided into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex.

Motor and Premotor Cortex

The motor cortex is critical for initiating motor movements, as well as coordinating motor movements, hence why it is called the motor cortex.

Each area of the motor cortex corresponds precisely with specific body parts. For instance, there is an area that controls the left and the right foot.

The premotor cortex is associated with planning and executing motor movements. Within this area, voluntary movement is rehearsed, distinguishing these movements from unconscious reactions.

The premotor cortex has also been shown to be important for imitation learning through the use of mirror neurons.  These neurons essentially allow us to reflect the body language, facial expressions, and emotions of others.

Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex can support cognitive functions of a social kind, such as showing empathy.

As being able to imitate the social language and being empathetic as considered to be lacking in those with Autism, it could be suggested that they may have differences in their motor cortices or within their mirror neuron function.

Broca’s Area

Another region of the frontal lobes worth mentioning is Broca’s area . This region is located in the dominant hemisphere of the frontal lobes, which is the left side for around 97% of humans.

This region is associated with the production of speech and written language, as well as with the processing and comprehension of language.

The name is taken from the French scientist Paul Broca, whose work with language-impaired patients led him to conclude that we speak with our left brains.

Language differences in those with Autism may be correlated to differences in the structure and function of Broca’s area (Bauman & Kemper, 2005).

As the frontal lobes are situated at the front of the brain and are large in size, this makes them more susceptible to damage. This area is the most common for traumatic brain injuries, with damage to this region causing a variety of symptoms.

Below is a list of symptoms that may occur if an individual has experienced damage within their frontal lobe:

Damage to Broca’s area, in particular, has been shown to affect the ability to speak, understand language, and produce coherent sentences.

One of the most famous case studies associated with frontal lobe damage is the case of Phineas Gage . He was a railway construction worker who suffered an unfortunate accident when a metal rod impaled his brain in the frontal region.

Gage survived this accident but was said to have experienced some personality changes because of the trauma. Before the accident, Gage was described as a ‘well-balanced’ and smart, energetic person.

After his accident, he was described as being childlike in his intellectual capacities and had a loss of social inhibition (behaving in ways that were considered socially inappropriate).

This case study implies that the frontal lobes are essential to our personalities, intelligence, and social skills. As well as trauma to the head is a cause of damage to the frontal lobes, there are many other causes that can lead to damage.

For instance, a brain tumor, stroke, or infection can cause deficits in this lobe. Similarly, conditions such as cerebral palsy, Huntington’s disease, dementia, or other neurodegenerative diseases can lead to associated damage.

If someone is suspected to have frontal lobe damage, there are methods to diagnose this. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans can detect some differences in the frontal lobes after suffering a stroke or infection, as well as be able to detect dementia.

Also, neuropsychological evaluations can be completed to test for areas such as speech comprehension, social behavior, memory, problem-solving, and impulse control, among others.

Some common test to establish frontal lobe damage are the Wisconsin Card Sorting task. Within this task, individuals will be shown cards of varying sorts, such as some having symbols, numbers, different shapes, and colors on them.

They will then be asked to sort the cards by a certain criterion, which will then change throughout the test. Those who have damage to a certain part of the frontal lobes may struggle with this task and will not adjust to new sorting criteria, they will stick with the original criteria (this is called perseveration).

Other tests worth noting as finger tapping tests, to test for motor skill ability, and the Token Test, which tests for language skills.

To be able to treat frontal lobe damage, occupational, speech, and physical therapy can be helpful for rehabilitating these lost or damaged skills.

Finally, a talking therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is common for working on regulating emotions and aiding impulse behaviors.

CBT may not fully treat physical damage to the frontal lobes, but it can help support those with impairments to cope and manage with their symptoms.

Research Studies

Bauman, M. L., & Kemper, T. L. (2005). Neuroanatomic observations of the brain in autism: a review and future directions. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 23 (2-3), 183-187.

Catani, M., Dell’Acqua, F., Budisavljevic, S., Howells, H., Thiebaut de Schotten, M., Froudist-Walsh, S., … & Murphy, D. G. (2016). Frontal networks in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Brain, 139 (2), 616-630.

Eslinger, P. J., & Grattan, L. M. (1993). Frontal lobe and frontal-striatal substrates for different forms of human cognitive flexibility. Neuropsychologia, 31 (1), 17-28.

Kaufman, D. M., Geyer, H. L., & Milstein, M. J. (2017). Chapter 21-neurotransmitters and drug abuse. Kaufman’s Clinical Neurology for Psychiatrists . 8th ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 495-517.

Kolb, B., & Milner, B. (1981). Performance of complex arm and facial movements after focal brain lesions. Neuropsychologia, 19( 4), 491-503.

Mubarik, A., & Tohid, H. (2016). Frontal lobe alterations in schizophrenia: a review. Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy , 38(4), 198-206.

Semmes, J., Weinstein, S., GHENT, G., Meyer, J. S., & Teuber, H. L. (1963). Correlates of impaired orientation in personal and extrapersonal space. Brain, 86 (4), 747-772.

Stuss, D. T., Ely, P., Hugenholtz, H., Richard, M. T., LaRochelle, S., Poirier, C. A., & Bell, I. (1985). Subtle neuropsychological deficits in patients with good recovery after closed head injury. Neurosurgery, 17 (1), 41-47.

Vega, J. (2020, October 14). An Overview of Frontal Lobe Damage. Very Well Health.

Villines, Z. (2017, June 29). What does the frontal lobe do? Medical News Today.

Walker, A. E., & Blumer, D. (1975). The localization of sex in the brain. In Cerebral localization (pp. 184-199). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

A new University of British Columbia study finds that our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , finds that activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander. It also finds that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving – previously thought to go dormant when we daydream – are in fact highly active during these episodes.

"Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness," says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks."

For the study, subjects were placed inside an fMRI scanner, where they performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen. The researchers tracked subjects' attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from subjects and by tracking their performance on the task.

The findings suggest that daydreaming – which can occupy as much as one third of our waking lives – is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives.

Until now, the brain's "default network" – which is linked to easy, routine mental activity and includes the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), the posterior cingulate cortex and the temporoparietal junction – was the only part of the brain thought to be active when our minds wander.

However, the study finds that the brain's "executive network" – associated with high-level, complex problem-solving and including the lateral PFC and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex – also becomes activated when we daydream.

"This is a surprising finding, that these two brain networks are activated in parallel," says Christoff. "Until now, scientists have thought they operated on an either-or basis – when one was activated, the other was thought to be dormant." The less subjects were aware that their mind was wandering, the more both networks were activated.

The quantity and quality of brain activity suggests that people struggling to solve complicated problems might be better off switching to a simpler task and letting their mind wander.

"When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal – say reading a book or paying attention in class – but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships," says Christoff.

The research team included members who are now at Stanford University and University of California, Santa Barbara.

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How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus

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Sleep is an important time for the brain. Levels of brain activity change in each stage of sleep — including both rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep — and evidence increasingly suggests that sleep enhances most types of cognitive function.

Getting enough hours of high-quality sleep fosters attention and concentration, which are a prerequisite for most learning. Sleep also supports numerous other aspects of thinking including memory, problem-solving, creativity, emotional processing, and judgment.

For people with sleep deprivation , insomnia, sleep apnea, or other conditions that prevent getting adequate rest, short-term daytime cognitive impairment is common. In addition, multiple studies have linked poor sleep with longer-term cognitive decline, including the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia.

Thankfully, there is evidence that improving sleep can boost both short- and long-term cognitive performance. Better sleep can promote sharper thinking and may reduce the likelihood of age-related cognitive decline.

What Happens to the Brain During Sleep?

During a typical night of sleep, an individual goes through four to six sleep cycles that range from 70 to 120 minutes in duration. Both the brain and body experience distinct changes during these cycles that correspond to individual stages of sleep.

During NREM stages, brain activity slows overall, but certain pulses of brain waves remain. This pattern of brain waves is most pronounced in stage 3 NREM sleep, which is also known as slow-wave sleep or deep sleep.

In contrast, REM sleep is marked by a sizable uptick in brain activity. In many ways, the brain’s activity during REM sleep is similar to being awake. Not surprisingly, REM sleep is known to produce more vivid dreams.

It’s normal to cycle through both NREM and REM stages, with REM sleep being more concentrated in the second half of the night. During each part of this process, different chemicals in the brain become activated or deactivated to coordinate rest and recovery.

Experts still aren’t exactly certain why sleep proceeds in this pattern, but it is believed to facilitate mental recovery, which can unlock cognitive benefits related to attention, thinking, and memory.

How Poor Sleep Affects the Brain

Without sleep, the brain struggles to function properly. Because they don’t have time to recuperate, neurons in the brain become overworked and less capable of optimal performance in various types of thinking.

Poor sleep can take many forms, including short sleep duration or fragmented sleep. Both insufficient and interrupted sleep make it difficult to progress through sleep cycles in a normal, healthy way, which makes it more difficult to think straight and process information after a poor night of sleep

The short-term detriments of poor sleep on the brain and cognition can be the result of simply pulling an all-nighter, while those with chronic sleep problems may see a continuous negative effect on day-to-day tasks. Over the long-term, however, poor sleep may put someone at a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Graphic summarizing the short-term impacts of poor sleep compared to the long-term risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

What Are the Short-Term Impacts of Poor Sleep on Cognition?

The potential short-term impacts of sleep on cognitive performance are wide-ranging.

Most people are familiar with the daytime effects that result from a night of poor sleep, such as drowsiness and fatigue. In response to excessive fatigue, a person may inadvertently nod off for a few seconds, which is known as a microsleep .

Daytime sleepiness resulting from a night of disrupted sleep can cause serious cognitive impairments. Poor sleep reduces a person’s attention, as well as their learning and processing. A lack of sleep has also been found to induce effects that are similar to being drunk Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source , which slows down thinking and reaction time .

Research indicates that poor sleep quality has specific impacts on various facets of mental function Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . Insufficient or disrupted sleep can cause harm to certain parts of the brain responsible for various types of cognition.

Studies of the selective impact of sleep on cognition do not always generate consistent results. This may be the result of many variables, including differences in participants, how their sleep is changed in the research, or how cognitive effects are measured. However, there is some scientific consensus on the ways poor sleep may impair intellectual performance.

Poor sleep diminishes placekeeping Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source , which includes the ability to carry out instructions. Motor skills, keeping rhythm, and even some types of speech can decline without proper sleep.

Some studies have found lack of sleep to hinder cognitive flexibility, reducing the ability to adapt and thrive in uncertain or changing circumstances. A major reason this occurs is rigid thinking and “feedback blunting,” Trusted Source Oxford Academic Journals (OUP) OUP publishes the highest quality journals and delivers this research to the widest possible audience. View Source in which the capacity to learn and improve on-the-fly is diminished.

Poor sleep can also alter how emotional information is understood Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . When learning something new, analyzing a problem, or making a decision, recognizing the emotional context is often important. However, insufficient sleep — which frequently affects mood — impedes the ability to properly process the emotional component of information.

In some cases, this dysregulated emotional response impairs judgment. People who do not get sufficient sleep are more likely to make risky choices Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source and may focus on a potential reward rather than downsides. It can be difficult to learn from these mistakes, since the normal method of processing and consolidating emotional memory is compromised due to lack of sleep.

Existing research strongly supports the notion that not sleeping makes it harder to think straight. Without quality sleep, people are more likely to make errors, fail to absorb new information, suffer deficits in memory, or have impaired decision-making.

As a result, poor sleep can harm intellectual performance, academic achievement, creative pursuits, and productivity at work. The cognitive impacts of poor sleep can also create health risks, including life-threatening dangers from drowsy driving or operating heavy machinery without adequate sleep.

What Are the Long-Term Impacts of Poor Sleep on Cognition?

Some cognitive effects of poor sleep can be felt immediately, but mounting evidence shows that sleep influences the long-term risks of memory issues, cognitive decline and dementia.

Both NREM and REM sleep appear to be important for broader memory consolidation Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source , which helps reinforce information in the brain so that it can be recalled when needed. For example, NREM sleep has been linked with formation of declarative memory, which includes things like basic facts or statistics, and REM sleep is believed to boost procedural memory such as remembering a sequence of steps.

Poor sleep impairs memory consolidation by disrupting the normal process that draws on both NREM and REM sleep for building and retaining memories, which is closely linked to both NREM and REM sleep. Studies have even found that people who are sleep deprived are at risk of forming false memories Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . Fragmented sleep has also been found to negatively affect memory even if a person gets adequate sleep.

An analysis of more than 25 observational studies found a considerably higher risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source in people with sleep problems. In fact, that analysis estimated that as many as 15% of cases of Alzheimer’s disease are attributable to poor sleep.

Research shows that sleep helps the brain conduct important housekeeping, such as clearing out potentially dangerous substances like beta amyloid proteins. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta amyloid forms in clusters, called plaques, that worsen cognitive function. Studies have found that even one night of sleep deprivation can increase the amount of beta amyloid in the brain Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source .

This is one possible explanation for why insufficient sleep and sleep fragmentation have been associated with cognitive decline and dementia. Furthermore, in people already diagnosed with dementia, poor sleep has been linked to a worse disease prognosis.

How Does Poor Sleep Affect Creativity and Other Cognitive Processes?

Creativity is another aspect of cognition that is harmed by sleeping problems. Connecting loosely associated ideas is a hallmark of creativity, and this ability is strengthened by good sleep. NREM sleep provides an opportunity for information to be restructured and reorganized Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source in the brain, while new ideas and links between thoughts often emerge during REM sleep Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . These processes enable insight, a core element of innovation and creative problem-solving.

Limited or restless sleep can also indirectly affect cognition because of other problems that they cause. For example, migraine sufferers are more likely to have morning headache attacks Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source when they do not get enough sleep, and lack of sleep can increase the risk of infections Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source like the common cold. Sleep deprivation may worsen symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. These and numerous other physical and mental health issues are shaped by sleep quality, and may affect a person’s attention and concentration.

Are the Impacts of Poor Sleep on Thinking the Same For Everyone?

Not everyone is affected by poor sleep in the same way. Studies have found that some individuals may be more susceptible to cognitive impairment from sleep deprivation, and this may be influenced by genetics.

Research has discovered that adults are better at overcoming the effects of sleep deprivation than younger people. Teens are considered to be especially high-risk for detrimental effects of poor sleep on thinking, decision-making, and academic performance  because of the ongoing brain development occurring during teen years .

Some studies have also found that women are more adept at coping with the effects of sleep deprivation than men, although it is not yet clear if this is related to biological factors, social and cultural influences, or a combination of both.

Can Sleep Disorders Affect Cognition?

Sleep disorders frequently involve insufficient or fragmented sleep, so it comes as little surprise that they can be linked to cognitive impairment.

Insomnia, which can involve problems with both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night, has been connected to both short- and long-term cognitive issues.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is among the most common sleep disorders. It occurs when the airway gets blocked, which then leads to lapses in breathing during sleep and reduced oxygen in the blood.

OSA has been associated with daytime sleepiness as well as notable cognitive problems related to attention, thinking, memory, and communication. Studies have also found that people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing dementia .

Does Too Much Sleep Affect Cognition?

Many studies examining the effects of sleep on thinking have found an excess of sleep can also be problematic for brain health.. In many cases, research has discovered that both too little and too much sleep Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source are associated with cognitive decline.

The explanation for this association remains unclear. It is not known if excess sleep is caused by a coexisting health condition that may also predispose someone to cognitive problems. Overall, these research findings are an important reminder that recommendations for healthy sleep involve both a minimum and a maximum duration of sleep.

Will Improving Sleep Benefit Cognition?

For people with sleeping problems, improving sleep offers a practical way to enhance cognitive performance. Getting the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep can help the brain recuperate and avoid many of the negative consequences of poor sleep on diverse aspects of thinking.

Researchers and public health experts are increasingly viewing good sleep as a potential form of prevention against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . Although more studies are needed to conclusively determine sleep’s role in preventing cognitive decline, early research suggests that taking steps to improve sleep may reduce the longer-term likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips To Improve Sleep and Cognitive Performance

Anyone who feels that they are experiencing cognitive impairment or excessive daytime sleepiness should first speak with their doctor. A physician can help identify or rule out any other conditions, including sleep disorders, that may be causing these symptoms. They can also discuss strategies to get better sleep.

Many approaches to improving sleep start with healthy sleep hygiene . By optimizing your bedroom environment and everyday habits and routines, you can eliminate many common barriers to sleep. Setting a regular bedtime and sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evening, and minimizing electronics in the bedroom are a few examples of sleep hygiene tips that can make it easier to rest well each night.

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Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 3(5), 553–567.

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Whitney, P., Hinson, J. M., Jackson, M. L., & Van Dongen, H. P. (2015). Feedback Blunting: Total Sleep Deprivation Impairs Decision Making that Requires Updating Based on Feedback. Sleep, 38(5), 745–754.

Killgore W. D. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Progress in brain research, 185, 105–129.

Van Someren, E. J., Cirelli, C., Dijk, D. J., Van Cauter, E., Schwartz, S., & Chee, M. W. (2015). Disrupted sleep: From molecules to cognition. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35(41), 13889–13895.

Maquet P. (2000). Sleep on it!. Nature neuroscience, 3(12), 1235–1236.

Lo, J. C., Chong, P. L., Ganesan, S., Leong, R. L., & Chee, M. W. (2016). Sleep deprivation increases formation of false memory. Journal of sleep research, 25(6), 673–682.

Bubu, O. M., Brannick, M., Mortimer, J., Umasabor-Bubu, O., Sebastião, Y. V., Wen, Y., Schwartz, S., Borenstein, A. R., Wu, Y., Morgan, D., & Anderson, W. M. (2017). Sleep, Cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sleep, 40(1), 10.1093/sleep/zsw032.

Shokri-Kojori, E., Wang, G. J., Wiers, C. E., Demiral, S. B., Guo, M., Kim, S. W., Lindgren, E., Ramirez, V., Zehra, A., Freeman, C., Miller, G., Manza, P., Srivastava, T., De Santi, S., Tomasi, D., Benveniste, H., & Volkow, N. D. (2018). β-Amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(17), 4483–4488.

Yordanova, J., Kolev, V., Wagner, U., & Verleger, R. (2010). Differential associations of early- and late-night sleep with functional brain states promoting insight to abstract task regularity. PloS one, 5(2), e9442.

Cai, D. J., Mednick, S. A., Harrison, E. M., Kanady, J. C., & Mednick, S. C. (2009). REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(25), 10130–10134.

Lin, Y. K., Lin, G. Y., Lee, J. T., Lee, M. S., Tsai, C. K., Hsu, Y. W., Lin, Y. Z., Tsai, Y. C., & Yang, F. C. (2016). Associations Between Sleep Quality and Migraine Frequency: A Cross-Sectional Case-Control Study. Medicine, 95(17), e3554.

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Tdcs anodal stimulation of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex improves creative performance in real-world problem solving.

problem solving function in the brain

1. Introduction

2. materials and methods, 2.1. participants, 2.2. materials, 2.2.1. tdcs, 2.2.2. design tasks, 2.2.3. tdcs adverse effects questionnaire, 2.3. experimental procedure, 2.4. measures, 2.4.1. creativity scoring, 2.4.2. statistical analysis, 3.1. results of the basic information, 3.2. results of the tdcs adverse effects questionnaire, 3.3. creativity scoring, 4. discussion, 4.1. relationship between the influence of the right dlpfc on creativity, 4.2. possibility of influencing real-world creativity performance through tdcs stimulation, 4.3. contributions and limitations, 5. conclusions, author contributions, institutional review board statement, informed consent statement, data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

Share and Cite

Guo, J.; Luo, J.; An, Y.; Xia, T. tDCS Anodal Stimulation of the Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Improves Creative Performance in Real-World Problem Solving. Brain Sci. 2023 , 13 , 449.

Guo J, Luo J, An Y, Xia T. tDCS Anodal Stimulation of the Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Improves Creative Performance in Real-World Problem Solving. Brain Sciences . 2023; 13(3):449.

Guo, Jiayue, Jiani Luo, Yi An, and Tiansheng Xia. 2023. "tDCS Anodal Stimulation of the Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Improves Creative Performance in Real-World Problem Solving" Brain Sciences 13, no. 3: 449.

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Math problem solving and brain activity

By Murray Bourne , 02 Jul 2008

I believe that solving math problems is a very important issue. Mathematics is more than just "doing algebra". If we know how to solve a real-world problems, then we'll have a powerful and important ability, and best of all we'll see why we are doing all this math.

Let's say you have a math problem that is in sentence form. Most people struggle with word problems and one reason is that math word problem solving uses many parts of the brain.

Here are some tips on how to attack math problem solving — and I have included an indication of what goes on in the brain during each step. Here is a diagram of the brain so you can follow along. The front of the brain is on the right of the diagram.


a. Read over the whole problem: Understand the whole question first and take special note of the what?, when?, which?, how many? parts of the question, usually at the end.

The areas of the brain that you use for this portion of the math problem are the very back of the brain (your occipital lobe) where you process what you see. You also use the language areas of your brain (a large portion of the left hemisphere, surrounding your left ear).

b. Write down or draw what the question tells you: By listing the information in the question, it helps you to sift through what you already know and it reminds you of the math that might be involved. Once again your left brain is involved in the writing part, in particular Broca's Area and Wernecke's Area, which are above your left ear.

If there is any geometry involved (or graphs, or moving objects, or any other visual element) in the question, draw the situation . For drawing, you use the areas towards the rear top of your brain (the parietal lobes), the area at the top of your head (the sensorimotor region) and the back of your brain (vision).

c. What do they want? Is the quesion asking for a speed, or a time, or a length, or a position, or a cost? Many students answer a word problem by giving an answer that is not what the question actually asked. In the real world, will your boss be impressed if you give a time answer when they actually asked for a cost?

At this point, it is good to estimate the answer and to write down that estimate for checking later. Estimation involves non-language areas of the brain (while exact arithmetic involves language areas).

So far in our math problem solving, we have a good idea what the question has told us and we know what we need to find. We also have an approximation for our answer.

d. Identify the math required: Now you need to make a decision about the math. Will it involve algebra? Or maybe trigonometry? Or logarithms? Maybe it will involve differentiation or perhaps integration? This is where you see the need to actually learn the formulas in each section of math that you study, and not rely 100% on formula sheets. The best way to recognize the math that you need to use, is to know that math in the first place.

This step uses the higher-order thinking areas at the front of the brain (the frontal lobes) and the memory areas of the brain (which tend to be all over).

e. Do the math: Now we need to churn through the algebra (or whatever) to get our answer. Assign variables to the known and unknown quantities in the question. In the brain, this step involves the frontal lobes and the area behind and above the ears.

Your answer must include units (if there are units in the question).

f. Check, check and check: Firstly, check if your answer is close to your estimate. If not, it's back to the drawing board.

Next, read over the question again and check that you have actually found what the question was asking for.

Finally, check all the algebra and arithmetic steps.

Phew! We are done.

Now don't be scared about all the brain activity involved in math problem solving. It's like most human abilities — the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the brain can begin to relax.

George Polya contributed greatly to our understanding of how to solve math word problems. You can see a summary of his approach from his 1957 book "How to Solve It" at G. Polya: How to Solve It .

See the 20 Comments below.

Related posts:

Posted in Learning mathematics category - 02 Jul 2008 [ Permalink ]

20 Comments on “Math problem solving and brain activity”

its a great article thank u for this full explanation about that programme ,, for me the word questions r not hard ,, i like to solve them ,, but for alot of sudents its a problem ,, what u told us will help in math and also in physics cause every thing in physics talks about the real life

its a very very informative and good article which has not only helped me to analyse my ways of doing word problems but will also help me to tell it to the tsudents as a teacher..

it's an honour for everything you have done for us. i also guess to know maths means to know how to to explain it' so can i get the better ways of teaching maths. and if ever possible, i would also like you to give us some problems as to train ourselves and try to find our self confidence

Thanks for the post, Zac.

Do women process math problems differently to men, or is that just a male chauvinist rumor?

i have very much passion about math and physics. but i can not get any time to practice it coz of my academic studies and economic problem. i like this web very much. i always have the love and respect to the scientists and the person who are working for human being.

i like it! when i read this article i have a new ideas know in teaching math in the classroom. thank you so much...

Steph: It may be true that women have an advantage when it comes to doing math problems. Since women have a larger corpus callosum (the tissue that connects the left and right sides of the brain) than men, they have more pathways between the left and right hemispheres. So all this activity between different parts of the brain is actually less effort for women.

As a man, I'm jealous.

However, this issue of male and female brain differences is disputed. See Characterization of sexual dimorphism in the human corpus callosum (full article) and Sex Differences in the Human Corpus Callosum: Myth or Reality? (abstract only).

Thankyou verymuch

Great article and very helpful.

I always thought girls were not supposed to be able to do math as well as boys. Certainly there are very few girls in higher math and in fields like engineering.

And you're saying they actually have an advantage? Wow.

It is good. It helped me to solve mathematical problems with more patience.

I am a math teacher just starting to explore how and where the brain processes math information. This article illustrates that nearly EVERY part of the brain is utilized in a word problem. As a teacher, it is my job to break down a problem so students can comprehend each part, this information is extremely helpful, especially if a student has a specific learning difficulty. I will be able to better scaffold their assignments. Thank you!!

Hi Nancy and thanks for your comment.

Good on you for exploring this issue. I wish more math teachers would do so and then rather than turning their students off with mindless "drill and kill", they may be more aware of what actually triggers - and maintains - interest in a math class.

HI and thnx for this website it is an honour since i flunk math to get to know this it really helps so thnx eyy and i agree with ladies being better in math srry i dont use long words:p

good article. pls tell me which part of brain to be stimulated (left or right) for solving maths

Hi S. Mathematical thinking occurs in most parts of the brain. This video may give you some insight: Right brain math .

How does this affect students who have disabilities, like severe learning disabilities, intellectual disailbities, etc.? Are there studies to show how their brain functioning can be stimulated or helped to increase their problem solving skills? It appears they are such concrete thinkers that they cannot seem to get to the abstract and stick with the algorithm that is comfortable to them for all problems and don't comprehend past that thought?

This affects those with learning difficulties on many levels - attention, higher-order thinking, processing words and numbers, connecting back to earlier parts of the problem, and so on. There has been quite a bit of research on this. This Google search shows up a lot of interesting articles.

Interesting article. I was curious about the relationship between the area of the brain that does math and my headaches. I have Multiple Sclerosis and every time I do algebra I feel like my head is going to explode. The lesions are in the occipital and parietal lobes. Now I know I am not being a big baby when it comes to algebra.

Thanks for sharing, Kathleen. All the best with it!

I like it helps .me.on hard word problems☺☺

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    A brain training activity doesn't always have to be exercise-related. Much research has found that creative outlets like painting and other art forms, learning an instrument, doing expressive or autobiographical writing, and learning a language also can improve cognitive function.

  6. What Is Cognition? Definition, Types, Effects, and Tips

    Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. Some of the many different cognitive processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving. 1 These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.

  7. Executive Dysfunction: What It Is, Symptoms & Treatment

    The main executive functions are: Working memory. Cognitive flexibility. Inhibition control. Working memory Working memory is the kind of memory that involves whatever you're doing right now. If you're reading, taking notes or having a conversation, then your working memory is part of the process. Cognitive flexibility

  8. Inside the Brain

    The brain has three main parts: The cerebrum fills up most of your skull. It is involved in remembering, problem solving, thinking, and feeling. It also controls movement. The cerebellum sits at the back of your head, under the cerebrum. It controls coordination and balance. The brain stem sits beneath your cerebrum in front of your cerebellum.

  9. Frontal Lobe Function, Location in Brain, Damage, More

    problem-solving regulation of emotions and mood, including reading the emotions of others personality expression motivation, including evaluating rewards, pleasure, and happiness impulse...

  10. 22 brain exercises to improve memory, cognition, and creativity

    It regulates multiple bodily functions, interprets incoming sensory information, and processes our emotions. It is also the seat of memory, intelligence, and creativity. Although the brain gets...

  11. Cerebral Cortex: What It Is, Function & Location

    The largest lobes of the cerebral cortex are the frontal lobes.These are located at the front of the brain behind the forehead. The frontal lobe's functions primarily involve 'higher' cognitive functions such as decision-making, conscious thought, problem-solving, and attention.

  12. The Brain: Anatomy, Function, and Treatment

    The brain is a unique organ that is responsible for many functions such as problem-solving, thinking, emotions, controlling physical movements, and mediating the perception and responses related to the five senses. The many nerve cells of the brain communicate with each other to control this activity.

  13. Brain Dysfunction by Location

    Which side of the brain is affected is also important because the functions of the two halves of the cerebrum (cerebral hemispheres) are not identical. Some functions of the brain are performed exclusively by one hemisphere. For example, movement and sensation on one side of the body are controlled by the hemisphere on the opposite side.

  14. Lobes of the brain

    The frontal lobe is separated from the parietal lobe by a space called the central sulcus, and from the temporal lobe by the lateral sulcus. The frontal lobe is generally where higher executive functions including emotional regulation, planning, reasoning and problem solving occur.

  15. Playing brain training games regularly doesn't boost brainpower

    Games to train the brain (one shown) do not boost thinking abilities, a new, real-world study suggests. It's an attractive idea: By playing online problem-solving, matching and other games for a ...

  16. Frontal Lobe Damage: Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis, Treatment

    The frontal lobe is responsible for higher-level thinking (reasoning, problem solving, concentration, memory). 9 It produces speech and language, controls voluntary movements, regulates personality and social behaviors, and plays an important role in expressing emotions. Learn More: Executive Function and ADHD

  17. Study: What Brain Scans Reveal About Learning Math

    Researchers plan to gather brain data by scanning children's brains with magnetic resonance imaging machines, or MRIs, while the children complete arithmetic tasks and declarative and procedural memory tasks. The longitudinal study will enroll two groups of children in first through fifth grades.

  18. How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems

    Summary: Using AI technology, researchers provide new insight into how the human brain connects individual episodic memories to help solve problems. Source: Cell Press. Humans have the ability to creatively combine their memories to solve problems and draw new insights, a process that depends on memories for specific events known as episodic ...

  19. Frontal Lobe: Functions, Structure, Damage, and More

    The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls important cognitive skills in humans, such as: . emotional expression; problem-solving; memory; language; judgment; sexual behaviors; It is ...

  20. Frontal Lobe: Function, Location, anatomical Structure & Damage

    The frontal lobe is located behind the forehead, at the front of the brain. These lobes are part of the cerebral cortex and are the largest brain structure. The frontal lobe's main functions are typically associated with 'higher' cognitive functions, including decision-making, problem-solving, thought, and attention.

  21. Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

    However, the study finds that the brain's "executive network" - associated with high-level, complex problem-solving and including the lateral PFC and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex ...

  22. How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus

    Without sleep, the brain struggles to function properly. Because they don't have time to recuperate, neurons in the brain become overworked and less capable of optimal performance in various types of thinking. Poor sleep can take many forms, including short sleep duration or fragmented sleep.

  23. Brain Sciences

    Brain regions associated with creativity is a focal point in research related to the field of cognitive neuroscience. Previous studies have paid more attention to the role of activation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in creativity tasks, which are mostly abstract conceptual tasks, and less attention to real-world creativity tasks. The right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is ...

  24. Math problem solving and brain activity

    This step uses the higher-order thinking areas at the front of the brain (the frontal lobes) and the memory areas of the brain (which tend to be all over). e. Do the math: Now we need to churn through the algebra (or whatever) to get our answer. Assign variables to the known and unknown quantities in the question.

  25. How To Use Python To Solve Math Problems Easily and Quickly

    This program simply converts the number to a string using the str() function and checks if the string is equal to its reverse using slicing with [::-1]. If the string is equal to its reverse, the ...