A prefrontal cortex means sound judgement – you think?

So you’ve finally reached your early to mid-twenties. Congratulations! Your brain’s prefrontal cortex is fully developed. Now you can expect a rich full life of recognizing the consequences of your actions. So long, reckless teenage behaviour; hello, maturity and wisdom. It’s nothing but sound judgement from here on in!

Or is it?

This article will teach you how to recognize when your prefrontal cortex is not working in your best interest and what you can do about it.

brainFirst let’s talk about the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is at the front of your brain, unless you’re lying face down, in which case from the viewer’s perspective it’s at the back of your brain. At this point, the viewer should probably roll you over or at very least make sure you’re still breathing.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that decides good from bad, socially acceptable responses from unacceptable responses, Coke from Pepsi, and so on. Scientists tell us that this part of the brain does not fully mature until age 21 to 25. Actually, scientists didn’t tell us this directly but wrote it on a Post-It and left it on our desk. So shy, those scientists.

Everyone has a prefrontal cortex located in the frontal lobe of their brain, just as every car engine has a doohickey located in the you-know. But just because you have the part doesn’t mean it’s a quality part. Your doohickey might be German-engineered, or it might be from the Dollar Tree. The same goes for your prefrontal cortex. A lot depends on your genetics and how much your mom drank before she realized she was pregnant and again even after she realized. In short, there is no ISO standard for prefrontal cortices or mothers.

Consequently, you can rely on your prefrontal cortex only so far.

Let’s say – just hypothetically, mind you – that you decide the night before to drive to Montreal in the morning to watch your daughter’s basketball game. But when you wake up, you discover that the highways are sheer ice. At this point, a little voice in your mature prefrontal cortex will say, “You should play it safe and stay home.” However, your spouse says in a much louder voice, “We’ll be fine.” Your prefrontal cortex shrugs and says, “Whatever.” It turns out your shoddy prefrontal cortex doesn’t have much conviction. And so you venture out.

Blatantly stolen photo but much like this.

Blatantly stolen photo but much like this.

As you creep along the highway at 50, then 30, then 10 km/h, literally sliding down the hills at times, you see ahead of you a car that has spun completely around on the ice. As you pass the car, its front end bent but the occupants unharmed, your eyes briefly lock with those of the driver. “Shoddy prefrontal cortex?” he seems to say, and you nod, ever so gently, because you don’t want to make any sudden movements and land in the ditch.

But the brain is an amazing thing, and even when the prefrontal cortex lets you down, other parts will take over, in particular the primitive parts that don’t want you to die. Thus, you arrive safely in Montreal and head towards the school where your daughter is playing. Mind you, your prefrontal cortex should have advised you to write down the directions to the school, but no…

At the school, as you watch your daughter’s game and dread the return drive home, the cognitive portion of your brain recognizes that both you and your spouse are wearing blue jeans and virtually identical grey wool sweaters, which the prefrontal cortex clearly wasn’t paying attention to when it was thinking about hittin’ the ol’ road. The frontal lobe is also responsible for long-term memories, which is why you think, “My God, we look like my parents when they left for Europe on their 25th anniversary dressed in identical brown polyester suits!”

You’re soon joined at the game by your oldest daughter, who foolishly stayed up most of the night because of her immature prefrontal cortex. This also explains the waffle in her pocket.

And now, after a drive back home in the rain and fog so thick you could barely see the road, you’ve unwisely gone and written about it all and publicly embarrassed your spouse and daughter. What a shoddy prefrontal cortex indeed!

So what can you do when your prefrontal cortex, despite years of evolution and, from all outward appearances, a decidedly sober mother, lets you down? Thankfully, there is a higher power you can turn to for help in making sound decisions: the weatherman. Always listen to the weatherman.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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69 Responses to A prefrontal cortex means sound judgement – you think?

  1. DUH'Merica says:

    Great post, I enjoyed that. At least I think I did.

  2. Interesting. So a penis AND a wife can both override otherwise sensible prefrontal cortex decisions?

    I feel sort of smart for having read this, so thanks for that.

  3. Karen says:

    You know, we all have the immature prefrontal cortex to thank (blame?) for all the great stories from that period in our lives.

    And I had to convert kilometers to miles when I read this post, so now my brain hurts.

  4. markbialczak says:

    I’m pretty sure my prefrontal cortex sits pickled in a jar above a bar in College Park, Md. Unless somebody mistook it for a succulent pig’s knuckle.

  5. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Unfortunately, the limbic system often wins the slap fight with the prefrontal cortex, thus leading us to do stupid, foolish, dangerous things. In the future, you can listen to your wife or the weather dude, but not both at the same time. I’m glad you got home safely.

  6. Hee hee – I think mine was made at the Dollar Store for sure… not Canadian Tyre?

  7. Ned's Blog says:

    If I’m unhappy with my profound full-frontal vortex, can I take it back and exchange it for a better one like I do with an unripe melon at the supermarket? By the way, like checking for the ripeness of a melon, can I do the same by thumping on my proverbial context? If not, that would explain a lot…

  8. El Guapo says:

    And what is wrong with having a waffle in ones pocket???

  9. Twindaddy says:

    So that’s why I do so many stupid things…

  10. You failed to mention the scientifically proven fact that the stability and integrity of a prefrontal cortex can be severely compromised when estrogen is present in the system. I know you’re just trying to be kind but facts are facts.

  11. franhunne4u says:

    I got definitely a german made prefrontal cortex and I can assure you, even if I seriously disappoint you, that it does not work much better than that of the Dollar Shop …

  12. benzeknees says:

    I’m not prepared to believe a weatherman with his 0.0003% accuracy rating! But just in case, I’d make sure to have some kitty litter in my trunk to help with the ice.

  13. Mooselicker says:

    You lost me when you measured speed in kilometers per hour. My prefrontal cortex needs some work.

  14. ksbeth says:

    is it a coincidence that pfc also stands for private first class in the military?

  15. Educating the world one hilarious post at a time!

  16. List of X says:

    I may have just the opposite problem – I feel like my prefrontal cortex is crowding out other parts of my brain. Of course, it feels really bad about taking over, so occasionally it’ll say “here, queen Amygdala, you can handle this one”, which may not be necessarily the smartest decision.at that given moment

  17. Swati says:

    For the first time I read a post that was so informational yet so funny!

  18. cat9984 says:

    Wow – Canadian weathermen must be far superior to those in the U.S. We generally use them as a gauge of how much snow we won’t get.

  19. Aussa Lorens says:

    Yikes– glad you survived this. My PFC makes a lot of similar decisions. My Mom’s a teetotaller so I don’t know what to blame. Surely someone is at fault here.

  20. mollytopia says:

    Hahaha – this is awesome. I want to see the pic of your parents’ in their brown polyester suits. Or the waffle in the pocket please : )

  21. Marinka says:

    Wow, I had to suppress my laughter almost to the point of tears, as I am at work. This was so witty and humorous, I swallowed it in one gulp and wanted more! I can drink up the sarcasm for breakfast, lunch and dinner 🙂

  22. Pingback: Flap packets and other travel tips for 21-year-old daughters | Drinking Tips for Teens

  23. Sandi says:

    I was watching a video called “Back From the Edge – Borderline Personality Disorder” (yeah. I know.) and when I came upon a section about the prefrontal cortex, I needed to know more about it, so, enter Google. As the G-spot also previews a few images with the text results, your “Make Me Happy” graphic showed up, inducing a g-iggle in me, and I landed here.

    That’s for if you were ever wondering how people find your blog.

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