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The brain is a mass of over 100 billion neurons that weighs around the same as a couple of bags of sugar, and is folded up on itself. If you were to unfold it – it would be the size of a newspaper. The neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals, in the same sort of way that gates and wires in a computer work.
In really simple creatures there is just a selection of nerves spread throughout the body controlling basic functions like eating and sleep. We still have this type of brain, called the lower brain, but we've also added a “thinking” bit on top. This bit, the cortex, is responsible for memory and emotion as well as interpreting all the information that's coming in and initiating movement in the body, and this is what you use for decisions and calculations in your day to day life.
The lower brain looks after breathing, blood pressure, and digestion. All the things that you do “unthinkingly”. But it also has a role in generating the phenomenon known as instinct. Instinct is an impulse from a subconscious source. For instance, if you were crossing the street and a car comes speeding towards you, you would try to jump out of the way before it even 'registers' with your conscious mind that a car is coming. The part of your brain that is associated with these types of reactions is the amygdala - which normally controls emotional response. In a dangerous situation, the amygdale generates a powerful fear response before your higher brain has consciously processed the information that you're in peril. This is also the reason that angry people aren't capable of thinking of a moral solution, so they do something destructive. Their lower brain has taken over and is calling the shots.
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