Brain Structure and Functions

Tess Thompson

As we all know, the brain is a part of the central nervous system (CNS). Along with the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), it constitutes the decision-making and communication center of the body. From breathing to memorizing facts, the complex network of the CNS controls every part of our daily life – many of which we are not even aware of. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that acts as an expressway that receives information from the sensory nerves and transmits them to the brain. The brain deciphers and translates messages that it receives and signals to the motor neurons to convey a response to the concerned organ.

The brain develops from a neural tube of ectodermal tissue in the embryo. The anterior portion or the forebrain develops from the anterior part of the neural tube. It is comprised of two hemispheres and is also known as the cerebrum. The midbrain is the middle portion and the hindbrain is the posterior portion of the brain that includes the cerebellum and the brainstem.

Understanding brain function in detail is one of the most difficult lessons in biology, as various sub-parts of these main parts of the brain are responsible for different functions. Generally speaking it can be summarized as follows:

  • The cerebrum is highly wrinkled, a characteristic that increases the surface area. It is the largest and comprises of four lobes – the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. Together, these four lobes handle higher brain functioning like thoughts and actions:
    • Frontal lobe: reasoning, problem solving, emotions and movement.
    • Parietal lobe: perception of stimuli, recognition and movement.
    • Occipital lobe: visual processing.
    • Temporal lobe: memory, speech, auditory processing and perception.
  • The limbic system is also known as the emotional brain and is buried deep inside the cerebrum.
  • The cerebellum, also known as the ‘little brain’ consists of two hemispheres and regulates and coordinates movement, posture and balance.
  • The midbrain is the rostral part of the brainstem and is involved in body movement, vision, eye movement and hearing.
  • The brainstem is continuous with the spinal cord and is comprised of the medulla oblongata, pons, midbrain and parts of the hypothalamus. Its primary functions are of controlling breathing and heart functioning.

The mind is the seat of the faculty of reason, but it is the brain that performs major cognitive and perceptive functions and is responsible for your thoughts and feelings. Compromised brain health has an adverse affect on mental abilities. There are many adult memory products for improving brain functioning, but it is important to remember that that only a healthy body houses a healthy mind.

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