Commentary – Don’t take your brain for granted

Pearl Lorentzen

In Slave Lake provincial court Feb. 23, a man was sentenced for kicking and stomping his friend’s head during a drunken argument. The attack happened a while ago, but the victim is still re-learning how to do some things. There are others he will never get back.
“The function of the brain is absolutely critical to the ongoing and continuing ability to grow and develop all through life,” said Judge D.R. Shynkar, during the sentencing.
This got me thinking about our brains, both the physical structure and the function.
Brains are both delicate and resilient. A famous example is the railway worker in the 1800s who survived having a metal pole fly through his brain. Many accounts said that his personality changed, which is not surprising.
On a terrifying note, for a long time people working with mental patients thought stabbing their brain with a stick was a good idea. Lobotomizing is not given quite the horror credit I think it deserves, especially since it was so popular with people who claimed [and possibly legitimately thought] they were helping people.
The brain has various parts.
The Northern Brain Injury Association says, “Also known as the cerebral cortex, the cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain, and it is associated with higher brain function such as thought and action. Nerve cells make up the gray surface, which is a little thicker than our thumb…it is divided into four sections, called lobes. They are; the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe and the temporal lobe.”
One of the higher functions of the brain is speaking, writing, and understanding language.
Scientists have identified various places in the brain which are critical to speech and language, says the Weill Institute for Neurosciences website. These include the Boca’s area, Wernicke’s area, and angular gyrus.
The angular gyrus is close to the sections of the brain which process visual, auditory, and sensory information, says Weill’s website.
“The angular gyrus allows us to associate a perceived word with different images, sensations and ideas.”
We need our brains to function. While most of us – hopefully – will not experience a traumatic brain injury, there’s also the possibility of other types of brain damage through diseases or strokes.
Despite this, we often take our brains for granted. Most of us will never see the physical structure of our brains, but we can exercise it.
A quick Google search of brain exercises shows various options. One theme is the importance of working your body as well as your brain, as overall health impacts our brains. Other suggestions include: learn new skills, do a crossword, play sports or chess, meditate, practice visualization, draw a map from memory, do math, learn a new language, or expand your vocabulary in the language [or languages] you already know.
I was pleased to see crocheting on one of the lists. I’m sure knitting works just as well, but it is some mystery which my brain cannot comprehend. Learning to knit would be like learning a new language, which might be a good thing.

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