The human brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the body. It controls your emotions, thoughts, speech, memory, creativity, breathes, movement, and stores information from the outside world. This article discusses the different parts of the brain and the function of each structure.
The brain is a 3-pound organ that contains more than 100 billion neurons and many specialized areas. There are 3 main parts of the brain include the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem. The Cerebrum can also be divided into 4 lobes: frontal lobes, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, and occipital lobes. The brain stem consists of three major parts: Midbrain, Pons, and Medulla oblongata. Although each structure has a distinct function, they work together to control all functions of the body.
Parts of the Brain: Structures and Their Functions
The brain is made up of 3 essential parts: Cerebrum, Cerebellum, and Brainstem.
The cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain. It has a rough surface (cerebral cortex) with gyri and sulci. It can also be divided into 2 parts: the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere.
Although the hemispheres look identical, the left and right hemispheres have particular functions. While the left hemisphere (logical side) controls language and speech, the right hemisphere (creative side) is responsible for translating visual information.
According to the function, the cerebrum is further divided into 4 different lobes: frontal lobes, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, and occipital lobes. Each lobe has different functions:
The frontal lobe rests just below the forehead and controls our reasoning, organizing, our ability to speak, solve problems, pay attention, and our emotions.
The parietal lobe lies at the upper rear of our brain. This lobe manages our complex behaviors, including the 5 senses: touch, vision, and spatial awareness.
The parietal lobe also relays sensory information from different parts of the body, helps us process and learn a language, and maintains the body’s positioning and movement.
The occipital lobe is located at the rear of our brain. This lobe is responsible for our visual awareness, including visual attention, optical recognition, and spatial awareness.
It also controls our ability to interprets body language like facial expressions, gestures, and body postures.
Your temporal lobe sits close to your ears and is associated with interpreting and translating auditory stimuli. For example, your temporal lobe allows you to focus on one voice at a loud party.
This lobe also helps you understand oral language, general process knowledge and stores your verbal and visual memory.
The cerebellum, also known as the little brain, is located in the back of the brain. It sits just below the occipital lobes and on top of the pons. Just like the cerebrum, the cerebellum has two equal hemispheres and a wrinkly surface.
Although the cerebellum is small, it contains numerous neurons. It can help coordinate the movement of body muscles, especially the fine movement of hands and feet. The function of the cerebellum also includes maintaining posture, equilibrium, body balance, and even speech.
The brain stem is the posterior part of the brain that connects the brain with the spinal cord. Brain stem works together to regulate essential life functions, including body temperature, breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.
In addition, the brain stem coordinates the fine movement of the face and limbs. Functions of this area include sneezing, vomiting, swallowing, and movement of the eyes and mouth.
The brain stem comprises parts of the midbrain, pons, and medulla, all of which have specific functions.
The midbrain consists of the tegmentum and the tectum, located in the mouth of the brain stem. It plays a key role in controlling voluntary motor function and transferring messages. In addition, it controls eye movement and processes auditory, visual information, and eye movement.
The pons is the largest structure in the brain stem and is found above the medulla and underneath the midbrain, and in front of the cerebellum. It functions as a bridge between several parts of the nervous system, including the cerebrum and cerebellum. The pons also contains many vital nerves, such as
- The trigeminal nerve – This nerve controls facial muscles involved in chewing, biting, and swallowing.
- The abducens nerve – The abducens nerve allows the eyes to look from side to side.
- The vestibulocochlear nerve – This nerve controls hearing and balance.
The pons also helps regulate sleep cycles, breathing patterns, respiration, and reflexes.
The medulla is a cone-shaped structure located in front of the cerebellum. The prominent role of the medulla oblongata is regulating involuntary (autonomic) functions, including breathing, digestion, sneezing, swallowing, and heart rate.
4. Limbic System
The limbic system is a complex brain structure that lies deep in the cerebrum. It contains the thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala.
Since it plays a significant role in controlling our emotions and forming our memories, it is often called our “emotional brain” or ‘childish brain.’
The thalamus is a small mass of grey matter that relays sensory information from the spinal cord, brainstem, and other parts of the brain to the cerebral cortex.
The thalamus is a relay station for signals received by the human body from the outside to enter the brain. In addition, it is also related to consciousness, memory, and sleep.
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that sits right below the thalamus. Although the hypothalamus is a tiny part of the brain, it has one of the most crucial and busiest roles.
The primary function of the hypothalamus is maintaining homeostasis in the body. It’s also responsible for releasing hormones, regulating body temperature, controlling appetite, and managing sexual behavior.
The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure in the limbic system that processes strong emotions like fear, aggression, and anxiety.
The amygdala is located close to the hippocampus. It contains many receptor sites that can also perceive certain emotions and the storing and retrieving of emotional memories.
The principal role of the hippocampus is forming, organizing, and storing short and long-term memories.
The hippocampus also helps form new memories and links emotions, feelings, and sensations such as specific smell and sound to these memories.
The pituitary gland is a small, pea-shaped gland located at the brain’s base, just behind the bridge of the nose. The pituitary gland produces different hormones that regulate many of the body’s processes, including growth, sexual development, metabolism, and reproduction.
The skull is a fusion of bones that protects the brain, the brainstem and outlines the face. The 8 bones that protect your bones from injury include:
- 1 frontal bone
- 2 parietal bones
- 1 occipital bone
- 2 temporal bones
- 1 sphenoid bone
- 1 Ethmoid bone
Brain Conditions When the Brains Structure is Damaged
Your brain is one of the most complex organs in the human, and if one of the brain’s structures is damaged, it could lead to a brain condition.
For example, if your Broca’s area is damaged, you may have trouble moving your tongue, and your speech may be slow and poorly articulated. Other conditions that could affect the brain include:
Brain aneurysm: When an artery in the brain swells, it could lead to a brain aneurysm. If the aneurysm ruptures, it could cause a stroke.
Brain tumor: When any tissue in your brain starts growing abnormally, it could be symptoms of benign or malignant cancer.
Intracerebral hemorrhage: Bleeding inside the brain can cause difficulty speaking or difficulty walking.
Concussion: When there’s a heavy blow to the head, you may experience a concussion and temporarily lose brain function.
Cerebral edema: Electrolyte imbalance in the brain could lead to swelling of the brain tissue.
Glioblastoma: Glioblastoma is a brain tumor that develops very rapidly and creates pressure on the brain.
Pro tip: Glioblastoma is usually aggressive and could be very difficult to cure.
Meningitis: When the lining around the brain or spinal cord becomes inflamed from an infection, you may have meningitis. Other symptoms associated with meningitis include; headache, fever, sleepiness, neck pain, and stiff neck.
Encephalitis: Encephalitis usually arises when tissue in the brain becomes inflamed. It’s usually a result of a viral infection and could cause fever, headache, and confusion.
Traumatic brain injury: A severe head injury could lead to permanent brain damage. Other symptoms include mental impairment and personality and mood changes.
Parkinson’s disease: Degeneration of nerves in the brain could lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience hand tremors and problems with their coordination and movement.
Epilepsy: Although there’s no exact cause for epilepsy, head injuries and several strokes can trigger epilepsy. People with epilepsy may also experience seizures.
Dementia: When a nerve cell in the brain starts malfunctioning or degenerating slowly, it could lead to dementia. Strokes and alcohol abuse could also cause brain dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease is known as senile dementia. Here, the nerves in the brain degenerate, causing progressive dementia.
Brain abscess: A brain abscess occurs when there’s a pocket of infection in the brain. Brain abscesses are usually caused by bacteria and may require either antibiotics or surgical removal.
How to maintain a healthy brain
As we age, certain brain areas start to shrink, especially areas that are important to learning and storing memories. The good news is – You can follow some tips to keep your brain in excellent health and slow down mental decline. Here are some tips you can use to maintain a healthy brain.
- Do mental exercises
Doing mental exercises like doing crossword puzzles, reading regularly, or learning a new language helps improve your mental fitness. Doing mental exercises stimulate nerve cells and may even trigger the development of new brain cells.
- Protect your head
Injuries to the head can cause brain concussions, other severe brain injuries. You can protect your head by wearing helmets or other protective gear when you’re playing contact sports.
- Physical exercise
Doing regular physical exercises doesn’t only help your muscles; it helps your brain too. Exercising improves blood flow in your body, including your brain.
Moderate exercise also lowers blood pressure, reduces mental stress, and could trigger the development of new nerve cells.
- Quit smoking and excessive Alcohol
Smoking isn’t only bad for your general health; it could also lead to cognitive decline in the brain.