…yet they never learn, as they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again – just as someone who has experienced the destructive effects of drunkeness, but gets drunk again.
Obviously, there can be a million and one explanations to such apparent ‘brainlessness’ – and would be foolhardy to attempt to delve into each one of them – but it would be appropriate to touch on the least talked about.
The key phrase is: the frontal lobe, or Lobus Frontalis.
This is located in the front of the brain, and the largest of the four major lobes of the cerebral cortex in the mammalian brain.
This is the part of the brain that involves the ability to project future consequencies resulting from current actions, the choice between good and bad actions (also known as conscience), the override and suppression of socially unacceptable responses, and determination of similarities and differences between things and events.
It is, of course, responsible for other functions, such as voluntary movement, and in integrating longer non-task based memories.
However, what we are more interested in is the primary function of the frontal lobe.
As we have already seen, this part of the brain is the one responsible for most of our day to day decisions – and, thus, it goes without saying if someone’s frontal lobe is not properly developed, then that person’s life would be one big mess.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that person would be as good as a zombie.
The frontal lobe does not just develop naturally, as it needs to be exercised.
Just as our bodies and muscles need require regular exercise – and the correct nutrition – so does our frontal lobes – and the brain as a whole.
As the saying goes: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Similarly, in order to raise up well-structured individuals in our society, there is need for our school curricula, and home activities to be biased towards extensively developing our children’s – and our own – frontal lobes.
The frontal lobe contains most of the dopomine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex, which is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning and motivation.
As such, any activities in our children’s daily activities that does not boost this function diminishes their abilities to make correct decisions in life – or even learning from their mistakes.
Our schooling system should move away from a memory-based curriculum to a strategic thinking, independent problem solving one.
Whilst important, memory-based learning appears to work independently of strategic frontal lobe functions.
Memory-based learning – whereby, pupils are mostly required to remember data in order to pass examinations – leads to inert knowledge that the pupils will be unable to convert into independent thinking.
As such, wasting time by making pupils memorise the types of rocks, or clouds, or formulae to work out mathematical questions does not help much.
However, if constantly exposed to independent problem solving, strategic frontal lobes are adept at transforming information to be remembered into bigger, even original, ideas.
In fact, trying to remember too many details counteracts the high efficiency of frontal lobe thinking.
The same applies at home, our children – and ourselves – should be engaged in activities that boost the cognitive command centre ingenious thinking.
It will disappoint – if not anger – many people to note that most television programmes and movies, as well as, video games actually are designed to skip the frontal lobe completely.
Therefore, instead of spending worthless hours watching TV, and movies, or playing video games, or even on social media – parents would be better advised to engage their families in problem solving activities, as puzzles.
We should always avoid leaving our brain on automatic pilot, and always be involved in thoughtful deep and effortful processing achieved by our frontal brain regions, which is an ingredient to brain health.
Most brain degeneration that happens in our old age is a direct result of a brain that was not being stretched to its very limits.
Let us overall both our school and home systems if we ever want to develop a generation of responsible, strategic thinkers.
* Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and author. He is always available should anyone wish to invite him to talk at any platform. Please call: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]