The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that is rational, logical and understands consequences. It keeps the pleasure-seeking part of the brain, the limbic system, in check. The prefrontal cortex helps us to assess situations, make informed choices and weigh the options. It is the top-front part of the brain.
It is very important in decision making, as it moderates complex social behavior.1 It has executive functions that analyze and differentiates conflicting feelings, moral obligations, predictions of outcomes and future consequences. Thus, it has been called the “CEO of the brain” because it’s higher-functioning capabilities.
When individuals have a craving or urge, a message is sent to this CEO of the brain, that may say “take that drink,” while the prefrontal cortex might say “do you remember what happened last time you had a drink? Bad idea.” From there, this part of the brain ultimately decides whether to act, or not to act, on these impulses.
The activity of the prefrontal cortex is a complex orchestration of morals, motives and thoughts driven by an individual’s internal goals whereby assessing the validity, values of good, better and best, or right and wrong.2 This part of the brain does not fully develop until our twenties, whereas it’s “rival,” the limbic system develops when we are 5 years old.
Appropriately, the interaction between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex has been called a “team of rivals,“3 because they, in theory, push and pull against each other – one is primitive and seeks pleasure, while the other warns of consequences of such behaviors. But together, they maintain homeostasis of the brain.