Anatomy of the Brain

The following questions and answers will help you better understand the anatomy of the brain, which is part of the central nervous system.

What is the Central Nervous System (CNS)?

The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is the organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, respirations, temperature, hunger, and every process that regulates our body.

What are the various parts of the brain?

The brain is divided into several areas:

    * Cortical areas
          o frontal lobes
          o temporal lobes
          o parietal lobes
          o occipital lobes
    * Subcortical limbic structures
          o basal ganglia
          o thalamus
          o hypothalamus
          o amygdala
          o hippocampus
    * The brainstem (midline or middle of brain) includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. Functions of this area include: Movement of eyes and mouth, relaying of sensory message (hot, pain or loud), hunger, respirations, consciousness, cardiac function, body temperature, involuntary muscle movements, sneezing, coughing, vomiting and swallowing.
    * The cerebellum (infratentorial or back of brain) is located at the back of the head. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements, and to maintain posture, balance and equilibrium. The cerebellum also affects emotions and higher-level cognitive functions.

What are some other critical parts of the brain, and their functions?

More specifically, other parts of the brain include:

    * Pons: Located in (and part of) the brainstem, the pons contains many of the control areas for eye and facial movements.
    * Medulla: The lowest part of the brainstem, the medulla is the most vital part of the entire brain. It contains important control centers for the heart and lungs.
    * Spinal Cord: A large bundle of nerve fibers located in the back extending from the base of the brain to the lower back, the spinal cord carries messages to and from the brain and the rest of the body.
    * Frontal Lobe: The largest section of the brain, located in the front of the head, the frontal lobe is involved in personality characteristics, higher-order cognitive abilities such as goal-oriented behavior, planning, and mental flexibility, as well as movement.
    * Temporal Lobe: Located at the sides of the brain, these lobes are involved in auditory processing, understanding of verbal information, memory and sense of smell.
    * Parietal Lobe: This term refers to the middle part of the surface of the brain. The parietal lobe helps one understand spatial relationships (i.e., where your body is compared to other objects around you). The parietal lobe is also involved in sensory processing and interpreting pain and touch in the body.
    * Occipital Lobe: This is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision.

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