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Examining the Role of the Brain in Cognitive Functions

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Explain the role of the brain in cognitive functions. As a part of this explanation, describe what Phineas Gage's accident revealed about how brain areas support cognitive function.

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The role of brain in cognitive functions has gotten a lot of attention from researchers for centuries. Studies of brain functions from neural activities in animal brains reveal that there are specific neurons that encode basic sensory properties of stimuli as well as others that reflect deeper cognitive analyses. These cognitive analyses include things such as the emotional content of facial expression, the location of the animal, response to stimuli, and the relative location of one object with respect to other objects of interest.

Also, testing of patients suffering from cognitive disorders such as schizophrenia and dyslexia, using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a PET (positron emission tomography) reveal that those disorders are associated with specific areas of dysfunction in the brain. Consequently, those same dysfunctional sites are also associated with particular behavior deficits. These results show that each part of the normal human brain has a specific role in our cognitive functions, with many parts containing sub-functions.

This web of brain interaction/coordination enables the brain to perform complex cognitive tasks that are inter-related. Hence, the study of brain dysfunctions provides scientists the best opportunity to understand the relationship between the brain and its higher functions as it provides for the comparison between a normal and a damaged brain. From that point, researchers will be able to determine the pathways of malfunction that occurred in the damaged brain leading to cognitive impairment. Furthermore, research shows that the structure, as well as, the function of the brain is critically influenced by a person's ...

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