The Monday Morning Memo: Tollbooth on the Yellow Brick Road

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

You are an advertising message. Your hope is to arrive at the Emerald City, the prefrontal cortex of the human brain, that place where decisions are made in the mind.

Bad news - located just behind the forehead, the prefrontal cortex is isolated from all the parts of the brain that gather information from the outside world. A journey to the Emerald City is both long and difficult.

Good news - there is a yellow brick road, a highway that will take you directly there!

Bad news - the only entrance to this yellow brick road is through a tollbooth called Broca’s Area. Will you be able to pay the toll? “Interest me!” cries Broca. “Surprise me with something I didn’t know. If you’re not carrying new information or a new perspective, you’ll not enter my yellow brick road.”

brocas-brainAlthough it’s positioned just inside the ear, Broca’s tollbooth screens not just auditory data, but all types of neural information. Sight, sound, smell, taste, pain, pressure, position, movement and temperature are each gathered and processed in outlying areas of the brain, but all must pass through Broca’s tollbooth on their way to the prefrontal cortex. Sitting in his tollbooth, Broca attaches verbs to actions as he anticipates the predictable. Broca turns away everything that he “sees coming.”

Broca hates the predictable.

According to Dr. Alan Baddeley, Director of the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge, the yellow brick road that runs between Broca’s tollbooth and the Emerald City is called “the dorsolateral prefrontal association area of the brain,” and it’s a road that Dr. Baddeley calls “working memory.”

You and I call it Imagination.

According to Dr. Baddeley and his neurological associates, working memory (imagination) is composed of three parts; the central executive, the phonological loop, and the visuospatial sketchpad.

The central executive chooses where to direct your attention. After Broca has decided what does and doesn’t matter, the central executive decides what matters most.

The phonological loop rehearses sound. Have you ever had a song get stuck in the phonological loop and you couldn’t get it out of your head? The phonological loop (sometimes called the articulatory loop) is a cul-de-sac on the yellow brick road.

The visuospatial sketchpad is where you “see” things that have never happened. Think of it as the movie screen of the mind.

Amazingly, all this happens on the yellow brick road of the dorsolateral prefrontal association area, a part of your brain that is not connected to your eyes, but is attached directly to your ear. Sound is invasive, intrusive and irresistible; and there is no sound more seductive than the sound of words.

Do you know how to use them? Can you pay your way past Broca’s tollbooth? 

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet