Our brain is one of the most important and sophisticated organ in our body. The human brain has the same basic structure as other mammal brains but is larger in relation to body size than any other brains. It contains billions of neural networks that interact to create human behaviour. Its basic functions are processing sensory information, regulating blood pressure and breathing and releasing hormones but it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are many things which we miss out about our own brain so let’s start by understanding how our brain functions.
Parts of brain and their functions
- The largest part of the human brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres. Underneath lies the brainstem, and behind that sits the cerebellum. The outermost layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex, which consists of four lobes: the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital.
- Like all vertebrate brains, the human brain develops from three sections known as the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. The cerebral cortex is greatly enlarged in human brains and is considered the seat of complex thought. Visual processing takes place in the occipital lobe, near the back of the skull. The temporal lobe processes sound and language, and includes the hippocampus and amygdala, which play roles in memory and emotion, respectively. The parietal lobe integrates input from different senses and is important for spatial orientation and navigation.
- The brainstem connects to the spinal cord and consists of the medulla oblongata, Pons and midbrain. The brain stem controls the reflexes, limb movements and visceral functions (digestion, urination) and critically functions in controlling the heart, breathing and consciousness.
- Between the cerebrum and brainstem lie the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus relays sensory and motor signals to the cortex and is involved in regulating consciousness, sleep and alertness. The hypothalamus connects the nervous system to the endocrine system “where hormones are produced” via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are responsible for visceral functions, body temperature and behavioural responses such as feeding, drinking, sexual response, aggression and pleasure.
- The cerebellum lies beneath the cerebrum and has important functions in motor control. It plays a role in coordination and balance and may also have some cognitive functions. It indicates position and movement and uses this data to coordinate limb movements.
- The cerebrum (also called the cerebral cortex or just the cortex) consists of the cortex, large fibre tracts and some deeper structures (basal ganglia, amygdala and hippocampus). It integrates info from all of the sense organs, initiates motor functions, controls emotions and holds memory and thought processes (emotional expression and thinking are more prevalent in higher mammals).
Left brain vs. right brain and how they function
- The human brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left and right, connected by a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.
- The left brain controls all the muscles on the right-hand side of the body and the right brain controls the left side. One hemisphere may be slightly dominant, as with left- or right-handedness.
- There are some important differences between these areas. The left brain contains regions involved in speech and language (called the Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, respectively) and is also associated with mathematical calculation and fact retrieval.
- The right brain plays a role in visual and auditory processing, spatial skills and artistic ability more instinctive or creative things.
It is difficult to understand completely how human brain functions as our brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves make up a complex, integrated information-processing and control system known as your central nervous system. In tandem, they regulate all the conscious and unconscious facets of our life. Our brain is made of approximately 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons. Neurons have the amazing ability to gather and transmit electrochemical signals which play the most important part in proper functioning of human brain.