Pyramid from a Brain-Based Perspective

    In order to understand the human condition, one must first understand what it is that motivates humans. It follows that we must then look to the motivator, the brain. The human brain works in such a way as to satisfy a series of needs. Abraham H. Maslow”s theory of human motivation (1954) explains the sequence by which humans move through levels of concentration so as to best satisfy these needs. Maslow”s pyramid (1954), a five-tiered structure, represents a summary of this theory. Maslow (1954) postulates that in order for one to focus his/her attention on the ultimate goal at the apex of the pyramid, self-actualization, one must first fulfill the needs at the subordinate levels. At the lowest level of the chart are the physiological needs, followed by the need for safety, the belongingness and love needs, the esteem needs, and finally culminating in self-actualization. This paper will demonstrate how various brain mechanisms work to satisfy each echelon of needs, and further, how as all lesser needs are met, the individual may refocus his/her concentration to ascend the hierarchy towards self-actualization.

According to Maslow”s pyramid, the basest of human needs are physiological, in particular homeostasis and appetite. These necessities must be met before human consciousness can progress to the next level of concentration. Maslow”s theory gains support upon examining the breakdown of how the brain functions. Carter (1998) explains that the lateral and ventromedial hypothalamic nuclei are largely responsible for controlling when one feels hungry. While the lateral nucleus is responsible for detecting declining blood glucose levels, the ventromedial senses rising glucose levels. Thus, the lateral nucleus signals hunger while the ventromedial signals fullness. These nuclei are therefore responsible for making sure that the human body has the proper amount of fuel and nutrients.

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