Trainer's Blog

News and updates from CRI’s Executive Director and Head Trainer, Rick Griffin

How do we keep concepts in our minds?

Published February 27, 2023 by Rick Griffin

Fats Waller, three-quarter length portrait, seated at piano, facing front (Library of Congress)

The concept of a piano is not just represented in our brain when we see or interact with an actual piano. It also arises in the brain when we read, say, or hear the word “piano”. This is because our brain is organized in a way that allows us to represent objects, ideas, and concepts in a flexible and abstract manner.

When we are exposed to a word like “piano,” the visual information from the word is processed in the primary visual cortex located in the occipital lobe, just like when we see an actual piano. However, this visual information is then processed by other brain regions, including the temporal lobe, which is involved in language processing and semantic memory. This region of the brain is responsible for representing concepts, such as the concept of a piano, in an abstract and flexible way.

When we read or hear the word “piano,” our brain activates a network of neurons that are associated with this concept. This network is made up of many different brain regions that are involved in different aspects of piano-related experiences, such as hearing piano music, seeing someone play the piano, or even just thinking about pianos. This network of neurons is activated by the word “piano” because the brain has learned to associate the word with the concept through prior experiences and learning.

This ability of the brain to represent concepts in a flexible and abstract way is crucial for many cognitive processes, such as language, memory, and problem-solving. It allows us to think and communicate about objects and ideas even when they are not physically present in our environment. In the case of pianos, it allows us to recognize and talk about pianos even when we are not looking at or interacting with one directly.

One Response

  1. Thank you for this blog, Rick! You know that every time you mentioned some thing about sensory processing, that you are going to catch my attention as an occupational therapist who works with and trains about the importance of understanding all of the sensory systems! You always have a way of bringing intricate concepts into understandable language!

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