Parts of the Brain Associated With Thinking Skills

Close-up of a young man reading from his laptop.
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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 refers 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 backward to constitute approximately one-third of the total volume of the brain. The frontal lobe, particularly the region located furthest to the front called the prefrontal cortex, is 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

The inferior frontal gyri are located in the lower back portion of the frontal lobe on each side of the brain. Creativity depends on thinking skills that rely on the use of baseline knowledge combined with innovative thinking. Interaction between the inferior frontal gyrus on the right and left sides 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. Even in left-handed people, speaking and language skills are more commonly concentrated on the left side.

Temporal Lobe

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

Parietal Lobe

Mathematical and analytical skills require a system of interaction between the temporal lobe, prefrontal region and parietal lobe, which is located near the back of the brain at the top of the head. Skills for algebraic mathematical tasks and calculations are generally concentrated in the left parietal lobe, while skills for geometric perception and manipulation of 3-dimensional figures are determined primarily by the right parietal lobe.

Limbic System

The limbic system is located centrally and deep within the brain. It consists of several small structures called the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and 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 being 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.

Reviewed by: Mary D. Daley, M.D.

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