Human brain is the central organ of the human nervous system, and with the spinal cord makes up the central nervous system. The brain consists of the cerebrum, the brainstem and the cerebellum. It controls most of the activities of the body, processing, integrating, and coordinating the information it receives from the sense organs, and making decisions as to the instructions sent to the rest of the body. The brain is contained in, and protected by, the skull bones of the head.
The brain is surrounded by a layer of tissue called the meninges. The skull (cranium) helps protect the brain from injury.
Brain is composed of the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem.
Cerebrum: is the largest part of the brain and is composed of right and left hemispheres. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision and hearing, as well as speech, reasoning, emotions, learning, and fine control of movement.
Cerebellum: is located under the cerebrum. Its function is to coordinate muscle movements, maintain posture, and balance.
Brainstem: acts as a relay center connecting the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. It performs many automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, wake and sleep cycles, digestion, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing.
The cerebrum comprises gray matter and white matter at its center. The largest part of the brain, the cerebrum initiates and coordinates movement and regulates temperature. Other areas of the cerebrum enable speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, emotions and learning. Other functions relate to vision, hearing, touch and other senses.
The cerebral cortex is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. It is covered with ridges and folds . The two halves join at a large, deep sulcus that runs from the front of the head to the back. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left half controls the right side of the body. The two halves communicate with one another through a large, C-shaped structure of white matter and nerve pathways called the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is in the center of the cerebrum.
The brainstem connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. The brainstem includes the midbrain, the pons and the medulla.
- Midbrain. The midbrain is a very complex structure with a range of different neuron clusters , neural pathways and other structures. These features facilitate various functions, from hearing and movement to calculating responses and environmental changes. The midbrain also contains the substantia nigra, an area affected by Parkinson’s disease that is rich in dopamine neurons and part of the basal ganglia, which enables movement and coordination.
- Pons. The pons is the origin for four of the 12 cranial nerves, which enable a range of activities such as tear production, chewing, blinking, focusing vision, balance, hearing and facial expression. Named for the Latin word for “bridge,” the pons is the connection between the midbrain and the medulla.
- Medulla. At the bottom of the brainstem, the medulla is where the brain meets the spinal cord. The medulla is essential to survival. Functions of the medulla regulate many bodily activities, including heart rhythm, breathing, blood flow, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. The medulla produces reflexive activities such as sneezing, vomiting, coughing and swallowing.
The spinal cord extends from the bottom of the medulla and through a large opening in the bottom of the skull. Supported by the vertebrae, the spinal cord carries messages to and from the brain and the rest of the body.
The cerebellum is a fist-sized portion of the brain located at the back of the head, below the temporal and occipital lobes and above the brainstem. Like the cerebral cortex, it has two hemispheres. The outer portion contains neurons, and the inner area communicates with the cerebral cortex. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance and equilibrium. New studies are exploring the cerebellum’s roles in thought, emotions and social behavior, as well as its possible involvement in addiction, autism and schizophrenia.
The brain is also divided into several lobes:
• The frontal lobes are responsible for problem solving and judgment and motor function.
• The parietal lobes manage sensation, handwriting, and body position.
• The temporal lobes are involved with memory and hearing.
• The occipital lobes contain the brain’s visual processing system.