Let's take a moment to thank that lovely lump of mass resting on top of our spines. Without our brains, we would not be able to perceive this beautiful planet we are lucky to call home. So, what exactly is inside our skulls, and how is it working?
Your brain is one, fluid-functioning whole. Without each part, your experience of the world around you would be altered, and perhaps, you wouldn't be perceiving this world at all!
That being said, for the purpose of understanding, the brain can be broken down into three parts, as shown in the diagram below.
Let's start with the oldest part: the reptilian brain. This is the command center for your physiological functions, conducting the rhythm at which your heart and cells pulsate. The reptilian brain works subconsciously, meaning you don't have to tell your digestive system to digest--it just does it, automatically. This is why an unconscious person in a coma can still conceive, gestate, and give birth. No thinking required!
Now, let's talk about the limbic system (pictured, left). This is your emotional and memory center, including your thalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and pineal gland. Through hormone secretions, your limbic system guides your physical experience, including your circadian rhythms and the capacity of your nervous system. A good analogy is to think of the limbic system as the "glue" that connects your thinking brain, or cerebral cortex, to your physical brain, or your reptilian brain.
Sitting on the very top is your cerebral cortex, or neocortex. This is the newest part of the brain, evolutionary speaking. This is where rational thinking takes place. When new ideas inspire cognitive connections, your cortex physically changes, rewiring itself as your patterns of thought change. It is true: this part of the brain isn't fully developed, and is therefore very malleable until age 25. Lately, ideas such as neuroplasticity are showing the amazing capability of the brain to change, at any age. It really is possible to teach and old dog new tricks, as they say.
Now that we've delved into the depths of the three parts of the brain, let's look the reptilian, limbic, and cortex as a whole. Below is a handy chart, dreamt up by Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova. You can see on the left side how the parts of the brain correspond to the Body, Soul, and Spirit. On the right side, the analogy is expanded and enriched. You can read an in depth explanation of this chart on our tumblr blog.
Our brains are truly amazing configurations of protoplasm.