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The Cerebral Cortex: Brain Structures and Functions Part II

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  • 0:06 Analyzing the Cerebral Cortex
  • 1:32 The Temporal Lobe
  • 3:16 The Frontal Lobe
  • 4:15 The Parietal Lobe
  • 6:39 The Occipital Lobe
  • 7:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jared Taylor

Jared Taylor has worked as a course materials manager, writer, editor and transcriptionist. He holds a master's degree in history.

Check out this video lesson to learn about the four lobes of the human brain - the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal. You'll learn about the functions and processes of each region.

Analyzing the Cerebral Cortex

When we last saw Nrr and Blrr, they had just gotten the results from the first three weeks' worth of data from monitoring their research subject, Phil. Now it's the day after and they're about to start their weekly team meeting to discuss how their research is going. Blrr is especially excited about the data and the new technology they're using to gather it.

Blrr: 'I just love the new Brainulator 8000. It's such a relief not to have to use the old Probe King 4000!'

Nrr: 'We got some great results yesterday, but some of the data, especially the data about the cerebral cortex was inconclusive. I think we should monitor the subject around the clock and enable the thought scan, then maybe we can make sense of the cerebral cortex.'

There were nods around the table. The cerebral cortex is the largest part of the human brain that surrounds most of the other brain structures. From the data analysis, it appeared that the cerebral cortex was responsible for quite a variety of functions and many complex thinking processes, which made the data hard to sort out and get conclusive answers from.

Nrr and his group decided to divide the cerebral cortex up into four different parts based on what appeared to be naturally occurring dividing lines in the brain. They called these parts the temporal lobe, the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe and the occipital lobe.

Diagram of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex
Cerebral Cortex Lobes

The Temporal Lobe

So not more than a couple of hours later, Blrr was in the control room monitoring what Phil saw, heard, felt and thought. It was a Thursday night and Phil was searching around his house for something. Blrr could see from his thoughts that Phil was trying to remember where he put something, a piece of paper that he had written a number on. Blrr could also see that the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex, or the lobe in the lower central part of the cerebral cortex, was showing lots of activity.

Then Phil remembered that he had left the piece of paper in his car. He went to the car and retrieved the paper and the activity in the temporal lobe came back down to normal levels. Blrr noted the time, and then entered an observation into the computer: 'temporal lobe activity associated with memory.'

Now Phil had picked up the phone and dialed a number. When he started talking on the phone, Blrr noticed another increase in brain activity in the temporal lobe, as well as an increase in brain activity in the frontal lobe, or the forward region of the cerebral cortex. In fact, it actually looked like the frontal lobe had more activity when Phil was talking and that the temporal lobe had more activity when he was listening. Blrr made some more notes in the computer: 'temporal lobe activity associated with hearing and language comprehension. Frontal lobe activity associated with speech.'

Phil spent most of the night on the phone and then went to bed. But Blrr wasn't tired, in fact he had an idea about how to test complex human brain functions. He beamed himself into Phil's garage and went to work on his car. First he slashed Phil's tire, then he disconnected the battery. Satisfied that he had created a good test, Blrr beamed back to the ship and waited for Phil to wake up and discover his handiwork.

The Frontal Lobe

The next morning, Phil got in his car to drive to work without noticing the slashed tire, but the car wouldn't start. He tried again and again, but still nothing. Frustrated, Phil slammed his fist against the steering wheel, got out of the car and slammed the door. He went to kick the tire and realized that it was flat, which just upset him more. Meanwhile, Blrr couldn't have been happier. He had generated a major emotional response in Phil and that response was corresponding with an increase in brain activity in the frontal lobe. He made another note in the computer: 'frontal lobe activity associated with emotional outburst.'

Phil began to calm down, and started thinking about what he should do next. Blrr noticed something interesting; as Phil calmed down and started planning his next move, a different part of the frontal lobe started showing more activity. Phil popped the hood and looked around. He noticed that the battery was disconnected and hooked it back up, then he went to work changing the tire.

The Parietal Lobe

Again Blrr noticed a new area of the frontal lobe was being stimulated, as well as a portion of the parietal lobe, or the top central lobe of the cerebral cortex. He made more notes in the computer: 'frontal lobe activity associated with planning and motor function. Parietal lobe activity associated with motor function.'

The rest of Phil's day was uneventful, filled with lots of everyday functions and stimulation of multiple areas of the brain that the computer was better suited to sorting out than Blrr was, but that evening was a different story because Phil had a date!

Like a gentleman, Phil opened the car door for his date, and after she got inside he closed the door, trying to look cool as he did it, but this was just not his day. Poor Phil shut the door on his own hand! Blrr noticed something really interesting now. There was a sudden burst of activity in a localized area of Phil's parietal lobe, but only on the right side, even though it was Phil's left hand that had been slammed in the door. Blrr double checked to make sure, and yes, Phil's left hand was in pain, but it was the right side of the parietal lobe that was stimulated, so Blrr made a note: 'parietal lobe activity associated with pain, but on opposite side of body from the stimulus.'

Phil assured his date that he was fine and they went to the restaurant that Phil had made reservations at. Phil was pleased to see that their table was already waiting along with the bottle of white wine on ice that he had pre-ordered. He took out the bottle of wine and put his still aching hand in the bucket. The ice water was very cold, but it dulled the pain. His date laughed, but Phil figured it could be worse, at least she seemed to be having a good time!

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