Is there a computer inside my head?

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Think for a minute…

Now, what did that feel like? What did you think about? How did you make yourself think? What did you do in order to think? Why am I asking you all these weird questions?!?

Think about it – have you ever thought, before, about how you think? My 6-year-old thinks there might be a computer inside her head. Do you think she’s right?

Inside your head (and my head and my daughter’s head – in fact, inside everybody’s head) there is something large and squishy that does all your thinking for you. It’s your brain.

The brain is an organ, about the size of a caulifower, and it is located inside your head. It is divided into four main parts:

  • the ‘cerebrum’ controls your memory, personality and thinking
  • the ‘cerebellum’ controls your balance and movement
  • the ‘medulla’ controls your heart rate and breathing
  • the ‘hypothalamus’ controls your temperature and the amount of water in your body

Each of these parts is made up of tiny cells, called ‘neurons’, which use chemicals to send messages to each other. These messages can tell your brain information (like, ‘I feel hot’) and can be used by your brain to give instructions to the rest of your body (like, ‘run away from that spider!’).

Watch this video for a virtual tour of the human brain and how it works.

Doctors and scientists have been looking at the brain and trying to figure out how it works for hundreds of years. It’s very complicated and although we have learned a lot about our brains, there is still plenty more to find out!

So, how do we think?

The part of your brain that you use to think about stuff on purpose, is the cerebrum. It’s the part where your memories and imagination are stored, and the part that you use to learn things and make decisions. But the truth is, we don’t really know how it works. Well, we know it uses neurons and chemical messages to receive and send information – we just don’t know how those messages become, for example, a story about a rainbow unicorn that likes to bake cupcakes, or the answers to all the questions in your history test.

Is it a computer? No, it is not. Your brain is a biological organ that controls how you, a living thing, lives; whereas a computer is a man-made machine that can store information and do complicated sums. In some ways, they are similar but they are not the same.

So, to answer the question: no, there isn’t a computer inside your head. Instead, there’s a super-clever and amazing brain. So clever and amazing, in fact, that we might need to use a computer to help us understand how it works…!

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