New Research Sheds Light on How the Brain Thinks and Navigates Memory
7 minute read
The brain is an intriguing and extraordinary organ. Our thought processes have long been a topic of interest in the scientific community. How exactly do we think?
While any number of philosophers have weighed in on the inner workings of consciousness, modern science has factual insights to add. According to recent research, it seems we use an internal navigation system to process information and identify solutions to process and store information we encounter.
Mental Maps and Navigation Through Life
As we navigate through our environment, key brain cells activate that we use these to navigate and think. There are place cells in the hippocampus and grid cells in the entorhinal cortex. Together, these cells provide orientation and navigation. We also store information from what we encounter in cognitive spaces throughout our brain.
We can arrange these experiences in our brain according to their properties, allowing us to sort and categorize what we know. For example, you can recall and sort family members and friends according to their heights, age, or even hair color. These cognitive spaces and the cells activated for orientation and navigation are all part of a greater thinking system.
As we move through life, everything we experience is mapped out and stored according to the properties. Every new experience or situation that comes along is processed using the stored information or maps.
In this way we can classify what we encounter and assign it to a cognitive space. You may not have seen a jaguar, but because you know the properties of a lion and tiger, you can identify the new animal as a big cat.
Going beyond instinct, your brain guides you in a more deliberate manner. Our instincts are also based on what we have learned through experience, but the reactions in that case are more automatic. Thinking is a deliberate process that requires the communication between brain cells and the accurate association of new information with stored information.
Out thinking is therefore a navigational process through already constructed cognitive spaces. As we learn or encounter something new, the brain cells of the entorhinal cortex are activated, indicating that we are trying to evaluate the new information based on what we know.
Using previous experiences as a guide, we can navigate through life and any new situations we encounter.
Enhancing the Thought Process
When that we use maps inside our brain to think and essentially navigate our world, it makes sense to take care of your brain. To think clearly and navigate safely, your brain needs to be in optimal health. There are things you can do to promote brain health and in turn you can be assured of clear thinking and a reliable mental map to guide you through your life.
Your brain is a very complex structure that performs vital functions. The billions of cells in your brain help to process, store, and map out information for you to use as a navigational guide.
Without these cells working at optimal levels, your thought processes as well as other cognitive functions can begin to decline.
No, you don’t need to visit a Mediterranean country to benefit your brain, but you should incorporate their diet. Fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and oils, as well as lean protein all boost mental and cognitive health.
No unprocessed, high-fat, or sugar-laden foods should be on the menu, and your learning capacity will grow, even as you get older.
Try a Ketogenic Diet
This diet has you eating more fat but fewer carbohydrates. Your brain needs energy to function efficiently, and the glucose provided through carbohydrate digestion is the go-to energy source.
However, excessive glucose in your blood can be dangerous, so an alternative energy source like fat is thought to be more optimal. When fat is the only energy source, it can be burned more efficiently, which means your brain gets all the energy it needs. Plus, keto recipes are still delicious.
There are certain foods that have been found to boost cognitive thinking and memory function. Since navigating through our past to understand the present depends of memory recall, it is important to boost memory.
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Avocados possess monounsaturated fats that protect your brain cells from damage, and blueberries contain antioxidants that protect your brain from oxidative damage. In addition to these, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and tea have all been identified as brain-boosting foods.
Exercise is known to be good for your physical health, but it boosts cognitive health as well. Regular physical activity has been linked with better memory and cognitive performance. Over time, aerobic activity protects the brain from volume loss and increases gray matter content.
Take a Nap
When you sleep, your brain gets a chance to recharge and cells can repair. You cannot follow a map that has rips in the page or important sections missing, so your brain cannot think if cells are damaged.
| Related: 13 Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory |
Napping allows memories to move to an area of the brain for permanent storage and enhances integration of information. Taking a nap and getting a good night’s sleep will ensure that all your new experiences are correctly stored into cognitive spaces to be recalled later when new situations are encountered
Practicing mindfulness trains your brain to focus on the present moment, which prevents you from worrying about the past or future. Studies have found that mindfulness improves areas of the brain associated with memory consolidation, which means the more mindful you are, the better your memory is.
Having an enhanced memory means you can more successfully navigate between your cognitive maps when new information is acquired and needs to be categorized and processed.
The Bottom Line
While your body physically carries you through life, it is your brain that serves as the map and navigates you. Human thinking is the result of your brain processing information based on previous experiences that have been categorized and stored.
In order for your brain to continue guiding you, you need to incorporate brain-boosting strategies into your life. Promoting optimal brain health ensures optimal learning, and optimal living.