To understand our behaviors, thoughts, and actions it is crucial we recognize the functions of the different parts of the brain. Depending on the type of sensations being perceived and the section of the brain being actively, we will respond to stimuli differently. Below are some of the most important parts of the brain to know.
Firstly, there is the old brain, whose parts occur without conscious effort. This includes the brainstem, which is the oldest part and central core of the brain. The brainstem is responsible for automatic survival functions, and at its base is the medulla, which allows for heartbeat and breathing. Above the medulla, is the pons, which helps coordinate movements.
At the top of the brainstem is the thalamus, which acts as the brain’s sensory switchboard by directing messages to the sensory receiving areas in the cortex and transmitting replies to the cerebellum and medulla. To control arousal, the reticular formation, a nerve network that travels through the brain stem, follows the incoming stimulus from the spinal cord to the thalamus.
At the rear of the brainstem is the cerebellum which coordinates movement and balance, moderates emotions, and facilitates nonverbal learning and memory. The cerebellum fine tunes motor activity or movement, maintains posture, and sense of equilibrium.
Moving on from the “old brain,” is the limbic system, which is between the oldest and newest brains. The limbic system is a neural system, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus, lassociated with emotions and drives.
To begin with, the hippocampus processes conscious memories, while the amygdala is linked to emotions, such as fear and aggression. The hypothalamus directs several maintenance activities, including hunger, thirst, and body temperature. Furthermore, the hypothalamus helps maintain the endocrine system through pituitary glands.
Finally, the cerebral cortex is an intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells covering the cerebral hemispheres, which acts as the body information processing center. As the new brain, it makes us distinctly human, increasing our capacity to learn and think. Within the cerebral cortex are glial cells, which support, nourish, and protect neurons.
The frontal lobes are a part of the cerebral cortex just behind the forehead. They are involved in speaking, muscle movements, and making plans and judgements. A famous case of frontal lobe damage is Phineas Gage. After a rod pierced through his frontal cortex, Gage survived but had long lasting changes to his personality.
Additional lobes include the parietal lobes, which understand language through expression and the occipital lobes (at the back of the head) involved in receiving information from the visual fields. The temporal lobes (located roughly above the ears) incase auditory areas and receive information from the opposite ear.
In addition, the motor cortex (at the rear of the frontal lobes) controls voluntary movement. The sensory cortex (the area at the front of the parietal lobes) registers and processes body touch and movement sensations. In more complex animals that have greater cortical space, association areas are devoted to integrating/associating information. These areas are involved in higher mental functions, such as thinking, speaking, and memory.
To sum up, the different parts of the brain work in unison to ensure that bodily and cognitive processes are maintained.