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Parts of the Brain Associated With Thinking Skills

author image Dr. Heidi Moawad
Dr. Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and author of "Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine," a career guide for physicians. Dr. Moawad teaches human physiology and Global Health at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio
Parts of the Brain Associated With Thinking Skills
A close-up of a young man reading from his laptop. Photo Credit permenovdg/iStock/Getty Images

The brain is a remarkable and complex structure responsible for thinking skills. Several parts of the brain work together in a sophisticated manner to integrate information and develop thoughts. The term "thinking skills" can refer to a wide range of processes, including consciously remembering facts and information, solving concrete or abstract problems using known information, and incorporating reasoning, insight or ingenuity.

Prefrontal Cortex

The frontal lobe is the largest region of the brain, and it is more advanced in humans than other animals. It is located at the front of the brain and extends back to constitute approximately 1/3 of the brain's volume. The frontal lobe, particularly the region located furthest to the front, called the prefrontal cortex, is also involved in sophisticated interpersonal thinking skills and the competence required for emotional well-being. In general, both the left and right sides of the prefrontal cortex are equally involved in social and interactive proficiency.

Inferior Frontal Gyrus

Creativity depends on thinking skills that rely on the use of baseline knowledge combined with innovative thinking. The interaction between the left and right inferior frontal gyri, which is the lower back portion of the frontal lobe on each side of the brain, facilitates creative thinking. Most right-handed people have intellectual skills for speaking and understanding language largely concentrated in the left inferior frontal lobe, and cognitive skills for attention control and memory concentrated in the right inferior frontal lobe.

Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe is involved in many reasoning skills, particularly the elaborate task of reading. The temporal lobe is located behind the frontal lobe on both sides of the brain, near and above the ears. The temporal lobe region that controls reading interfaces with hearing and visual recognition. Hearing and word recognition require the temporal lobe, while visual recognition is primarily based in the occipital lobe at the back of the brain.

Parietal Lobe

Mathematical and analytical skills require a system of interaction between the temporal lobe, the prefrontal region and the parietal lobe, which is near the back of the brain at the top of the head. In right-handed people, skills for algebraic mathematical tasks and calculations are more prevalent in the left parietal lobe, while skills for geometric perception and manipulation of three-dimensional figures are more prevalent in the right parietal lobe.

The Limbic System

The limbic system is located centrally and deep in the brain, consisting of several small structures called the hippocampus, the amygdala, the thalamus and the hypothalamus. The limbic system is involved in emotional memory and mood control. While the limbic system is involved with feelings, which are often thought of as spontaneous, the control of feelings and emotions requires high-level cognitive skills and interaction of the limbic system with the other parts of the brain involved in thinking.

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