Brain Mapping: The Brain and Mental Health | BrainsWay

Mapping the Mind: The Brain and Mental Health

The human brain has been studied and charted since the time of antiquity. Its function and role in overall experience of life and individual consciousness has been the focus of, among other professions, philosophers, mental health practitioners, and medical experts. The centrality of the brain in our everyday life has inspired a great deal of research, leading to a brain mapping process that has spanned millennia.

Read on to find out about what brain mapping is, which brain structures relate to issues of mental health, and what areas and structures are associated with different aspects of our emotional landscape.

brain mapping

The Evolution of the Human Brain

The human brain has evolved over millions of years, growing in size and in its ability to store and process information vital to its survival. As humans spread across the earth, they encountered new and challenging environments. To adapt, they needed to rely on their brain to store and withdraw crucial information relating to the surrounding climate, interactions with other humans, and painful past experiences, both physical and emotional.

Scientific discoveries have found that the human brain grew most rapidly during a period of dramatic climate change, which necessitated greater ability to adjust to a fluctuating environment.

The Basic Anatomy of the Brain

Brain mapping studies have allowed researchers to locate the relevant areas and structures to different aspects of human existence. This area of study has also found several key divisions within the brain:

The Different Layers of the Brain

  • The Brain Stem: Located at the bottom of the brain, the brain stem evolved early on. It connects the brain to the spinal cord, and is in charge of basic survival-related functions, such as breathing and sleeping.
  • The Cerebellum: Located at the base and back of the brain, the cerebellum is in charge of balance and coordination.
  • The Basal Ganglia: Located at the center of the brain, this cluster of structures relays messages from multiple areas of the brain.
  • The Cortex: The outer layer of the brain, associated with voluntary movements and thinking. The neocortex, which is the largest part of the cortex, developed last in mammalian brains.

The Two Brain Hemispheres

The brain’s main division is between its two hemispheres:

  • The Right Hemisphere: The right hemisphere is associated with more artistic abilities, such as creativity, music and singing skills, and spatial ability (which relates to artistic expression through dance).
  • The Left Hemisphere: Studies have associated the left hemisphere with more cognitive aspects, such as speech, comprehension, math, and writing skills.
Limbic System
Limbic System

The Four Brain Lobes

The second major division within the brain is between four distinct areas, called lobes. All four lobes exist in both the right and left hemispheres:

  • The Frontal Lobes: Located at the front of the brain, these lobes developed last in human evolution. They are in charge of thinking, speaking, memory, movement, and executive functions (relating to impulse control).
  • Parietal Lobes: Located at the top of the brain, the parietal lobes are the epicenter of neural processing relating to language, as well as a great deal of sensorial data processing relating to touch, taste, and smell.
  • Occipital Lobes: These lobes are located at the back of the brain and are in charge of visual data processing, color-related data, and letter recognition.
  • Temporal Lobes: Flanking the brain on either side, these lobes are also associated with memory, as well as with emotional processing, hearing, and learning.

Central Brain Structures Associated with Emotion

Numerous structures exist within the brain, with a number of them found to be related to the development of emotions, mental health conditions, or both.

The Limbic System

Located above the brainstem and beneath the cerebral cortex, the limbic system includes the following structures:

  • The hippocampal formation, in charge of memory, and associated with emotional processing.
  • The hypothalamus, in charge of hormone management, and associated with such emotions as rage and pleasure.
  • The amygdala, in charge of emotions.

Overall, the limbic system is in charge of feeding, memory, fighting, and sexual responses. Out of its different components, the amygdala is considered the “emotional center” of the brain and is in charge of many emotional processes.

The Amygdala

Located in the temporal lobe, the amygdala has been found to conduct emotional processing, connecting emotions to specific memories, motivation, and decision-making. In addition to being activated by happiness, it also plays a key role in fear, as it relates to threatening, dangerous stimuli. As a result, those who suffered damage to their amygdala often exhibit trouble with facial expression recognition and fear recognition.

Brain Structures and Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders have been shown to develop through a number of risk factors. These include genetics, adverse life experiences, one’s environment, personality, and the form and function of relevant brain structures.

The Bilateral Prefrontal Cortex

Located at the front of the brain, irregular activity within the bilateral prefrontal cortex has been associated with the development of depression.

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex

The anterior cingulate cortex is located in the wall of each hemisphere. Irregular activity of this structure has been associated with the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Treating Mental Health Through Brain Mapping Therapy

Several forms of therapy rely on the location, form, and activation patterns of different brain structures in their attempt to alleviate the adverse symptoms of a specific mental health condition.

Deep Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or Deep TMS™, is one such treatment, using magnetic fields to activate specific neural networks in the brain to improve symptoms of mental health conditions, including depression, anxious depression, OCD, and smoking addiction. Deep TMS is clinically proven safe and effective, with results both empirically proven and reported in personal patient testimonials.