The Airport Control Tower

Lesson objective:

We talk in this lesson about how the brain’s job resembles an airport control tower, predicting changing conditions and threats as well as coordinating the response to emergencies. This allows us to remember that the brain is the main coordinator that communicates with our body’s systems to ensure survival

In the previous video, we made it clear that your brain’s number one goal is to keep you alive

The structure, function, and operations of the brain reflect its main goal of keeping you alive, and we’ll talk in great detail over the course of these videos about everything from cells to hormones to brain-body communication, and how all of these aspects cooperate in service of survival.

The bottom line is that the brain functions in ways that prioritize and maximize your chance of survival and success in a chaotic world.

Let’s explore a simple comparison to better understand core operations of the brain, before we get into the details. 

Think with me for a moment about airports. 

Each year, 27,000 planes touch down and take off from the airport in Amman, Jordan, About 2.3 million passengers travel through the airport each year. All of this movement is delicate and fragile. It requires careful and constant communication, all of which is handled by the airport control tower. 

Airport control towers do a lot of coordination. Control towers play an important role in assessing potential threats to the airport, the passengers, and the planes. They have radars to check for unknown aircraft, mysterious objects in the air, or unknown vehicles on the runway. 

Basically, the height, size, and equipment of the tower were designed that way so that the eng

ineers inside will be able to predict incoming risks, and so that they could effectively coordinate day to day operations in the name of keeping the airport safe, free from harm, and able to accommodate more and more movements each year. 

Key functions of the airport control tower include:

  1. Coordinating take-off and landing
  2. Coordinating runway movements 
  3. Anticipating changing conditions
  4. Anticipating threats
  5. Coordinating responses to changing conditions and threats

The human brain is, in many ways, like an airport control tower. Think about it with me for a moment. 

As said, the brain coordinates all that is going on inside of you. 

Your brain coordinates various inputs, sensations, Responses, Thoughts, and Actions in order to ensure you get the various resources you need, to ensure you can adapt to changing conditions, anticipate threats, and to ensure you avoid harm as much as possible.

And just as the engineers in the control tower have to communicate with various departments, employees, and machinery in the ground below, your brain and its component parts communicate back and forth with the whole body to coordinate responses to changing conditions and threats. 

It’s a pretty close comparison, and one that we will return to over and over as we explore how the brain responds to stress and trauma. 

Importantly, the size and shape of various brain regions, as well as the internal communication pathways within your brain are formed in such a way to support this exact type of communication, to anticipate risks and keep you alive and adjust various systems accordingly.