Your brain’s processes allow you to understand and relate to the world around you more effectively.
When you receive information through your senses, you then select what’s important to you, store it, sometimes transform it, develop, and recover that information according to need.
For instance, when you see someone eating a banana, that sight can trigger a thought that you’re hungry. At that point, you have received information (through sight), stored and transformed it into the response “I’m hungry.”
Let’s explore how your brain works.
Sometimes perception can fool you!
Your brain understands things through whole pictures.
Your mind receives data (information) from its physical and psychic environments through the 5-sense organs and extrasensory perception. Perception is the ability to see, hear, feel, smell and taste, or to be aware of our environment through senses.
Recognising and grouping things for what they are
Firstly your brain can recognize an object from different angles or different senses. This 3D/4D brain activity is called perception constancy. This is for example when you can identify your best friend from the back and front views, or recognize his/her voice in a group of strangers.
You also have the ability to recognise your lover by touch! Think of our traditional marriages, when they cover the faces of several women and ask the husband to be to identify his fiance…this is where perception constancy plays a key role, hopefully he identified the right one!
Perception Grouping is an inert ability of the mind to organise everything into groups, according to their similarities or differences.
For example, when you first look at identical twins, your brain is unable to tell the difference. It sees the similarities and ignores their variations to conclude that both twins are one person.
Your brain then pays attention to spot the differences between the twins and identifies each one separately.
The wrong perception brings the wrong judgement
Your brain can distinguish stimuli from its surrounding, this is called perception contrast.
Contrast helps your brain to eliminate unimportant information and to focus on the relevant information.
For example, when you take your child to a playing field or restaurant, your brain will identify the voice of your child when she/he screams in joy or pain in the midst of 100 other people. It puts aside the background noise from parents or children who may be around you to identify the voice of the person that means most to you in that crowd.
Perception is very important for your brain’s process of knowing and understanding things. It determines the meaning you give to things, and how you will react to these things.
The challenge is that most of us give meaning to things we simply do not understand.
When you see a man driving like a matatu on the pavement past everyone, and paying no regard to traffic rules, you may assume he’s another careless Nairobi driver. When you see the police stopping him, your face might relay your internal grin that’s thinking, “Good for him, wacha akipate!”
And as you drive past him, you notice the police looking at the back seat, and your eyes shift to his back seat. Suddenly you see a woman lying on the back seat, foaming from her mouth, and a teenager sitting next to her and crying out of panic.
Suddenly, the information in your brain get’s re-arranged. Next thing you’re shouting from your window asking whether they need help. The grin on your face is replaced with empathy or sympathy, “Ngai Akurathime.”
The wrong perception gives the wrong judgement.
Attention is very central to your performance and success. It’s part of your brain’s conscious processing, and depends on what you select to be alert to.
The brain has voluntary (in your control) and automatic responses. Attention is a voluntary response, it’s in your control. It interacts with other parts of your brain like your perception, memory and senses to make you alert, and yet it also operates separately from them.
The first aspect of attention happens when you attune your senses to what is happening around you.
You become aware of the cues around you: visually and verbally, through one big picture of what’s happening. It happens in milliseconds, you use many disconnected pieces of what’s happening around to create one visual picture of what’s going on.
For example, it’s Saturday 8 pm, and you get into your friend’s house. In milliseconds your brain draws the picture of a party from combining several things: the furniture arrangement, people’s interaction (mafisis are around), the smell of overly spiced food, sounds of laughter, botis from BYOB and much more.
The second aspect of attention kicks in: you detect signals that you process consciously. There are people laughing loudly at one corner (fun), it may feel warm because it was cold outside (comfort), the smell of food lingers in your nasal cavity, and excitement starts building up. More milliseconds have passed.
In the third phase of attention, you chose to become alert to something. Out of the laughter, warmth and smell of food, you head straight for the whisky table and pour yourself a double scotch on ice.
Attention is a brain function that allows you to select what matters most out of the millions of trigger happening to your senses at a particular time. It’s the process of being alert to specific (internal) sensory cue, connecting it to your external environment for a specific purpose. In your case it may just have been thirst, next time you can choose water.
Doctors refer to that external information that your mind processes as stimuli: basically at the party, everything your senses interacted with is stimuli. From the people to feeling the warmth (the skin), the sound of laughter, the smell of chicken, it’s all stimuli.
If attention is central to performance and success, and you are in full control of it, then the main question is, “What do you choose to pay attention to?”
Attention is central to success because it’s what makes you delay gratification in the hope of achieving something better or bigger in the future. It’s the decision between finishing an assignment now or watching your favourite series. It’s what makes you decide to let go of the silly remark that someone just made about you, and focus on your goal.
Attention works in synergy with perception to give the mind the picture of the reality you see.
Memory is the process your brain uses to code, store, and recover information. Your brain repeatedly uses past information to measure the incoming information, on multiple timescales. It’s the process of comprehension!
The process of using your recent or past memory to address or inform a current situation is called the working memory.
It’s how your brain stores memory, and uses it while in need. Sometimes you forget things, or the memory is stored in a different compartment, so you can’t find it.
Take for example you meet the most fun person at a concert, he or she makes you laugh so much, and you’re discussing the best foods. This person seems to have very good taste in foods and is listing all your best dishes. You take down the number, and the two of you promise to link up.
The next day, your best friend is looking for a dermatologist, one that you can consult on something small, and hopefully not pay a dime. You can swear you do not know any dermatologist, and so you close that topic. Then when you dive into the next topic of food and restaurants, you remember the person you met yesterday at the Festival, and suddenly, you just in surprise, “Haiya! I totally forgot she was a dermatologist, hebu let me call her!” That’s the memory working, and being triggered.
Your memory works through association. That’s why we used to use mnemonics to remember tough subjects. For example SMART goals, for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely Goals. Mnemonics, make you associate the word with the specific meanings.
Memory and attention are very related. That’s why attention deficit disorders affect learning so much. If you cannot pay attention to something, you can’t code, store, or recover this information.
Memory has an indispensable role in the learning process. Learning is simply building on what you already know. New connections are made in the brain to form new memories.
We must remind you that your brain uses glucose (from good carbohydrates and fats) and protein to function well.
Some of the foods that have been associated with good memory are green leafy vegetables such as sukuma, spinach and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. These have a variety of nutrients namely vitamins E ,K , folic acid, work together towards protecting brain functions such as memory.
Several studies claim that Omega 3 from fish and anthocyanin from berries are valuable to the memory function. Anthocyanin are natural compounds which have antioxidants, and an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
Sign up for our free membership. We shall help you identify your food habits, and work with you to identify and keep the good ones, and adopt new ones. It all starts with keeping track of what you eat!
We must make an effort to improve our memories. Apart from food, language is one of the best ways to improve your memory.