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An overview of thinking-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.
Thinking is a “higher” cognitive process that involves planning, reasoning, and decision-making. A number of cognitive disorders have been associated with impaired thinking, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease. Thinking is also aligned with intelligence, which (although notoriously difficult to measure) seems to be a highly heritable construct. The prefrontal cortex is the region in the brain most strongly associated with these higher cognitive processes and is also involved in attention, inhibition, and social skills. Environmental stimulation may be important to fostering these processes and animals exposed to novel experiences achieve better cognitive development. Similarly, animals that receive good maternal care also show improved cognitive performance. GENES The Chromosome Map of Processes and Disorders catalogs some of the (many) genes associated with intelligence. These are included in the place of genes for thinking, which is a notoriously difficult process to investigate from a molecular perspective. BIOCHEMICALS Virtual Neuron allows users to explore some of the principle biochemicals in the brain, including GABA, glutamate, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These biochemicals are by no means specific to thinking, but are important elements to understanding thinking across different levels of analysis. CELLS Plasticity is an important element of cognition. The word “plasticity” derives from plastic’s ability to bend and change. Synapses have a similar property and change their shape or their function over periods of time from a few seconds to a lifetime. Many researchers believe plasticity is a determinant of intelligence. BRAIN The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the region in the brain most strongly linked to thinking, which is a primary executive process. Executive processes are that set of control processes that serve to optimize performance in complex tasks. It is also involved in personality and emotion by contributing to the assessment and control of appropriate social behaviors. Use the G2C 3-D Brain to explore the PFC and related brain areas. COGNITION Thinking incorporates a slew of cognitive processes, including Decision-Making, Reasoning, and Intelligence, all of which are the subject of Dana Review articles on G2C Online. In Defining Cognition, Professor Marc Hauser argues that it is not necessary to make a distinction between cognition and emotion, which may be considered a cognitive process in some respects. ENVIRONMENT In Early-Life Experience – Stimulation Professor Bruce McEwen discusses some of the environmental factors than can affect thinking. Exposure to novelty (a measure of environmental stimulation) is associated with cognitive development, better social development, and skill-learning. In addition maternal care is very important for determining long-term outcome. This provides good evidence that quality maternal care, consistent parental care, and a consistent home environment, does have long-lasting effects.
thinking, cognition, intellignece, iq, prefrontal, cortex, pfc, executive, process, gene, biochemical, cell, neuron, brain, cogntion, behavior, environment
Creative Commons License This work by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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