Brain Basics


We’re born without an instruction manual on how we operate. So it makes sense to start learning more about how our brain works. Although the brain is the most complex system in the known universe…don’t let that put you off. Just like the anatomy of any other organ, the anatomy of the brain becomes much clearer and more meaningful when we examine it in light of the evolutionary processes that created it.

Knowing more about how our brain works, means we can have more control over our behaviour and goals. We don’t need to feel like a victim of circumstances. We’ll be asking experts to help us out and will refer to their videos and websites for guidance when appropriate.

In short, all our behaviour is a result of the interplay between our brain and the environment. The environment includes the physical environment such as weather, houses, nature, the social influence of friends and family. It takes in cultural elements like the internet or religion too. Environment also means the internal environment such as our thoughts, toxins and trauma. This interplay is responsible for brain processes that produce our thoughts, moods, emotions, learning, beliefs and intelligence, as well as our physical movement, breathing,  heart rate, digestion and sleep. It makes us who we are.

In this section The Reward Foundation takes you on a simple tour of the human brain.  The brain has evolved to help us survive and thrive. Weighing about 1.3kg (almost 3lbs), the human brain makes up just 2% of the body’s weight, but uses around 20% of its energy.

The most efficient model for remembering the function of the brain in terms of its evolutionary development is the three-brain- in- one model, or ‘triune brain theory’ developed by Paul MacLean. Next we’ll see how the parts work together by exploring the principles of neuroplasticity, that is how we  learn and unlearn. It includes how habits are formed. This is key when dealing with the internet and how we can become stuck in compulsive behaviour through ‘pathological’ or unhealthy learning such as the process towards addiction. We will also look at how the brain communicates attraction, love and sex  via its main neurochemicals. To understand  why we are driven towards these rewards as well as to food, novelty and even pornography, it is vital to understand the role of the reward system. If you have ever wondered why the golden age of adolescence is so turbulent, fun and confusing, find out more about the adolescent brain.

We also provide a range of resources to support your understanding of these issues.