In college, I took a course in neuropsychology and loved learning about different parts of the brain and their various functions. I learned neat phrases like, “dorsolateral prefrontal cortex” and “anterior cingulate gyrus.” I have only a thin grasp of what either of those things mean, but my ability to insert them in conversation makes me really fun at parties.
One thing I learned is that our good friend The Frontal Lobe, which I like to call “Fro Lo” (okay, this is the first time I’ve ever used that phrase) is responsible for planning, decision-making, memory, and behavior.
Fro Lo helps you put together plans for a Saturday picnic, remember where your house is located, and inhibit your impulse to laugh during funerals. When your friend suggests getting drunk and dancing topless on the roof of your own house, if you respond with, “Nah that’s okay, I’ll just stay in and watch Netflix,” you can thank Fro Lo for doing its job.
Here is my crude interpretation of what the frontal lobe and his lobe-y friends are up to in the brain:
Whenever I see diagrams of the brain, I can’t help but think that my brain seems to be divided up in a very different manner. For example, I like to think that I’m pretty well-behaved, and my mind never seems to stop thinking/obsessing, so it seems like my frontal lobe should be slightly larger than normal. To compensate for this change in size, my cerebellum is probably somewhat smaller; this theory checks out because I have little to no balance or coordination (and anyone who has seen me dance or play sports would agree).
My brainstem is likely the correct size, though, because I feel about averagely talented at things like breathing and blinking.
This theory is totally scientific and completely accurate.
I think my brain would be more truthfully depicted in a pie chart. Let’s go back to my Fro Lo, for example. Ideally, it would contain a neat, organized arrangement of intelligent information, well-planned ideas, and pleasant memories.
Instead, my frontal lobe probably looks something like this:
- Useless facts = Information that is in no way needed in my daily life, but once struck me as interesting, so it’s in my memory to stay – maybe forever. These facts might be useful for someone, but the point is, they serve no purpose in MY life. I can tell you that women blink more than men, that triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number thirteen, and that only 5% of babies are born on their actual due date. Want to know the clinical term for Mad Cow Disease? It’s Spongiform Encephalopathy. These useless facts do come in handy during games like Trivial Pursuit, though. I’ve also used the facts as some sort of bartering mechanism; when people help me do menial tasks that I should be able to handle on my own, I like to “thank” them by informing them that the capital of Uruguay is Montevideo.
- Song Lyrics = The words to any song that I’ve ever memorized in my entire life. This includes everything from classical music learned throughout seven years of choir to the most excellent of 90s songs (I’m looking at you, Backstreet Boys). If you’re ever in a situation where you urgently need to know the words to Destiny’s Child “Say My Name” or Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” I’m your girl.
- Quotes from Friends = Let’s just say, I’m a big fan, and leave it at that. Just kidding, I have plenty more to say about it! I own all ten seasons on DVD, and have seen each episode more than I can count, and probably more than is healthy. No matter what topic is being discussed, I can find a relevant quote or plot to rattle off. Remember the “fun fact” about triskaidekaphobia? Straight from Friends. I have never failed a single internet quiz about the show, and I’m fairly certain that’s something to brag about. And if you complain about your overbearing mother, I might just say, “Hahaha, yeah that reminds me of a Friends episode where Monica’s mom is super condescending to her and it makes Monica insane.” (Side note: that’s a scenario that happens in multiple episodes.)
- Information relevant to my career = This is where knowledge about life span development, dynamics of domestic violence, and mental health diagnoses all reside. You may have noticed that all of the unimportant facts, memorized songs, and sitcom quotes are taking up much more room in my brain than information that is actually helpful and necessary.
- Phone numbers to elementary school friends = This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Back in elementary, cell phones barely existed and certainly weren’t given to 10-year-olds, but actual real-life address books weren’t exactly cool either, so everyone just memorized their friends’ numbers. And apparently, my brain has decided that these numbers are more important than other things. Things like conjugating irregular Spanish verbs, or knowing how to do stuff on Excel.
Fortunately, I don’t think I’m the only one whose Fro Lo is arranged a bit differently…
Now it’s time to ask yourself one of life’s great philosophical questions: what would a pie chart of your frontal lobe look like?