The brain is a very complex organ, more complex than any computer humans have ever built and indeed any machine we have ever invented. Its workings and inner functions have puzzled scientists and researchers for decades and in recent times, it seems that we are finally getting a handle on the complexities involved in the brain’s function. Weighing less than 3% of an individual’s total mass and using up more than 60% of the body’s total Oxygen supply, the brain is critical to the complete functioning of the human body and without it, the individual is effectively dead.
The first and perhaps most important stage in the act of information processing by the brain is the initial perception of the information in the form of stimuli from the various sensory organs and systems (conventional knowledge has these at 5 but modern research has countered these claims, saying there are more). The sensory organs, including the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin pick up a variety of information in their rawest form and these are sent straight to different parts of the brain (depending on the sensory organ) for processing. These bits of information that may be in the form of light photons (from the eyes), sound waves (from the ears) or even heat from the skin are all transformed by the sensory organs themselves into electrochemical signals and are sent to the brain. It is now that the brain goes to work making sense of the information It has just received. The brain, for example, employs techniques such as “top down” and “bottom up” processing when making sense of visual stimuli to help the individual make out subjects in their field of view.
One important thing to note with the brain’s information processing mechanism is its ability, through the use of its attention filter, to decide how important the stimuli signal is and also what cognitive process the processing of that signal should be assigned. For example, this system means that most of us are readily alert and can pick out the call of our names even in a very noisy room. Processing occurs in different stages according to the complexity of the information and information can be processed and reprocessed multiple times as the brain sees fit.
Storage is also a very integral part of the information processing process. In order for our brains to fully process information in the first place, they must be stored. There exists different types of memory including sensory memory (or short term memory), working memory (medium term memory) and long term memory. Processing information occurs after that information is first encoded into short term memory and once further processing occurs, the information can further be moved into the working and long term memory banks.
Although this isn’t the most complete description, this write-up covers the basics you need to understand with regards to the brain’s information processing. It is truly a beautiful organ, the human brain.