You’re on your way to the traditional Thanksgiving family get-together. You drive down a familiar street, locate your familiar house, and park in a familiar spot.

Thank you, hippocampusStructure in temporal lobe that has many functions but is es... More, for dutifully encoding Wisteria Drive, the light-blue colored Colonial house, and the parking spot next to the creepy oak tree almost twenty-eight years ago. I owe you one.

Wait a minute. Whose new convertible is that on our driveway? Hippocampus, remind me to find out.


You step out of your car and notice that the neighbors still have their Halloween pumpkins on display.

Ew! They look hideous. Well, at least I can decipher a ‘face’ in those god-awful, shriveled carvings. Thanks, fusiform gyrus.

You quickly snap a picture and send it to your roommate along with, of course, the face-with-tears-of-joy emoji.

Thanks, again, dear fusiform gyrus, to help comprehend the world of two hundred and seventy nine emojis. You’ve revolutionized the way we text.


As soon as you open the door, you catch a whiff of a blissful aroma from the kitchen. Ah! You smell pumpkin pie.

Wow, olfactory receptor neurons, you went from transducing smells to the olfactory bulb to making my stomach growl in no time! Thanks. Now I really have to eat.


You stare at the magnificent spread on the dining table. But tonight, you resolve to eat in moderation. No matter how delicious the food is, as an evolved human, you have the ability to suppress an urge.

Thank you, prefrontal cortex, for being my sleek, determined executive controller. Your strong-willed decisions have saved my many embarrassments, especially around free food.


The ovoid, curvaceous gravy boat sits proudly next to the turkey, fulfilling its sole responsibility on Thanksgiving Day. You’ve always cracked up at its odd shape.

Hey, visual cortex, thanks to your ventral pathway for helping make sense of shapes. They sure ask “what” a lot, but I know they mean well.


Your pants feel tighter as you eat, but you continue gorging the smooth, creamy mashed potatoes.

I can’t stop! This is so good!

Congratulations. You’ve fallen for the moves of the neural seductress, the ventral tegmental area. She has the (electrical) potential to make you feel so loved, so rewarded, and so addicted.

Thank you, thank you, and I don’t care!

Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex shakes his head in utter disappointment.

Psst! Cerebral gossip: Ever since you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight earlier this year, the steadfast prefrontal cortex has been in a complicated relationship with the ravenous ventral tegmental area.


Amid the clatter of forks and plates, your aunt interrupts your intimate moment with the pumpkin pie with, “Say, when are you going to graduate and get a ‘real’ job?”

Whaaa, where did this come from?

Your vigilant amygdalaA collection of nuclei found in the temporal lobe. The amygd... More senses potential fear, and nudges the hypothalamusGroup of nuclei that lies just below the thalamus. The hypot... More to sort out a fight or flight response. Your eyes widen. Your heart beats faster.

But let’s face it. You’re too stuffed for a fight. You’re too stuffed for a flight.

The amygdala makes a note: Do not fear unsolicited questions about career. Especially when eating dessert.


Your mind wanders to an ongoing manuscript revision.

[In reviewer voice] You missed being thankful for the brain stem.
Wait, really? Why should I?
[In reviewer voice] Because no one messes with the Mr. Brain Stem. We’re all just happy to have the support, and always cite him.
You sure have the nerve to randomly name-drop Mr. Bigwig Brain Stem.
[In reviewer voice] Yes, (cranial) nerves III – IX, to be specific.

Your corrected manuscript now reads: I’m extremely thankful for the brain stem.


It’s 10:30 PM. You try to keep your eyes open, but the idea of snuggling into your bed seems rather appealing. Oh, the sweet relief of melatoninA hormone released by the pineal gland that promotes sleep a... More. Yawn.

Thanks, suprachiasmatic nucleus. Nighty-night.

~

thanksgiving_2_knowingneurons

~

References:

This article originally appeared on PLOS Neuro Community.

Images by Jooyeun Lee.

Anita

Anita met neuroscience during her undergraduate project, and it was love at first sight.While majoring in biotechnology at the B.M.S. College of Engineering, Bangalore, she had the opportunity to learn about biochemical subtyping as a method for biomarker discovery in neurodevelopmental disorders.She then pursued a Master’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at USC.During her thesis project, her interest in translational neuroscience further evolved as she studied a kinase pathway (PI3K) highly implicated in autism.She currently belongs to the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and works on components of the blood-brain barrierA barrier between the brain itself and the blood supply of ... More and its integrity in animal models of neurological disorders. Outside the lab, Anita is very enthusiastic about educational and scientific storytelling! Some of her parallel interests include consumer psychology and behavior.

Anita

View posts by Anita
Anita met neuroscience during her undergraduate project, and it was love at first sight. While majoring in biotechnology at the B.M.S. College of Engineering, Bangalore, she had the opportunity to learn about biochemical subtyping as a method for biomarker discovery in neurodevelopmental disorders. She then pursued a Master’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at USC. During her thesis project, her interest in translational neuroscience further evolved as she studied a kinase pathway (PI3K) highly implicated in autism. She currently belongs to the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and works on components of the blood-brain barrier and its integrity in animal models of neurological disorders. Outside the lab, Anita is very enthusiastic about educational and scientific storytelling! Some of her parallel interests include consumer psychology and behavior.

4 Comments

  1. “You stare at the magnificent spread on the dining table. But tonight, you resolve to eat in moderation. No matter how delicious the food is, as an evolved human, you have the ability to suppress an urge.

    Thank you, prefrontal cortex, for being my sleek, determined executive controller. Your strong-willed decisions have saved my many embarrassments, especially around free food.”

    Yah, but you forgot to apologize to your limbic system for suppressing your need to be comfortable! Just a thought. And definitely not gonna pretend like I know much more than that with regards to your field HAHA…Happy holidays!

    1. This is really informative for teaching a group of kids in class about different parts of the brain and there functions..without them getting bored 😊

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