Weighing approximately three pounds, the human brain controls movement, feelings, thinking, digestion, breathing, circulation, and other essential body functions. Comprised of three primary sections that are highly dependent and interconnected, each part of the brain is responsible for a primary set of functions.
Let’s take a look at the major sections of the human brain and all of the interesting things they can do!
1- The Cerebrum
Located front and center, the cerebrum, accounts for a whopping 80% of the human brain. The cerebrum is separated into two halves, the left and right hemisphere. Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body’s motor functions. More specifically, the left controls the right, and the right controls the left.
Areas within the cerebrum interact with each other through an intricate internal highway comprised of nerve fibers called white matter. The most extensive white matter system in the cerebrum is called the corpus callosum, which connects both the left and right hemispheres.
Primary cerebrum functions include:
- Regulating and interpreting the five senses, such as touch, hearing, and smell
- Regulating emotions and feelings
- Problem-solving, reasoning, adapting our behaviours, and thinking
- Learning and memory
- Using and understanding language (i.e., communication skills)
- Body movement and spatial awareness
In addition to the left and right hemispheres, the cerebrum has four primary lobes tasked with specific functions:
Frontal lobes – Located in the front of the brain, the frontal lobes are the biggest lobes in the brain. Commonly referred to as the “executive” section of our brain, the frontal lobes control our higher levels of thinking (such as planning, reasoning, and organising). This area of the brain is also responsible for movement control and speaking.
Parietal lobes – Located directly behind the frontal lobes, the parietal lobes are responsible for interpreting and recognising sensory information from the outside world (such as temperature, taste, touch, and smell). This area of the brain helps us to understand spatial relationships such as size and shape. Additionally, this section of the brain is also essential for academic skills (such as reading and math).
Temporal lobes – Located right above the ears, the temporal lobes help us recognise and process sound (including music). They are also important for memory, learning, and understanding language.
Occipital lobes – Located at the back of the brain, the occipital lobes help process us process what we see. They are also important for reading, reading comprehension, colour recognition, depth perception, and the recognition of movement.
2- The Cerebellum
The cerebellum is located behind the top part of the brain stem (where the spinal cord meets the brain) and is made of two hemispheres (halves). Despite its relatively small size, making up about 11% of your brain, the cerebellum is bursting with neurons. Neurons are the basic building block of the nervous system, transmitting information everywhere in the body.
The cerebellum receives information from the spinal cord, sensory systems and other parts of the brain. It plays a crucial role in regulating motor movements.
Primary cerebellum functions include:
- Learning motor movements
- Coordinates voluntary movements, such as balance and speech
- Fine-tuning our emotions and thoughts
3- The Brain Stem
A stem-like section located at the base of the brain, the brain stem runs from under the cerebrum down to the spinal cord. The brain stem connects to 11 other cranial nerves in the head and helps to regulate and control essential bodily functions. The brain stem consists of the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata is responsible for controlling breathing, blood flow, and other essential bodily functions.
Primary functions of the brain stem include:
- Body Temperature
- Blood pressure and heart rate
- Consciousness and sleep regulation
- Controlling the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body
Additionally, the brain stem controls the body’s reticular activating system (RAS), which keeps the brain alert (in conjunction with the hypothalamus, cerebellum, and thalamus).
Despite its relatively small size when compared to the rest of the human body, the brain is not only one of the most exceptional organs in the human body, it’s also the most complex. Researchers are continually working towards understanding many of the mysteries of how our brain and mind works. By better understanding the various sections of brain function, we can better understand how disease or injury may impact specific bodily functions.