Telencephalon: Definition & Function

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  • 0:01 What Is the Telencephalon?
  • 1:07 The Cerebral Cortex
  • 2:44 The Hippocampus & Amygdala
  • 3:32 The Olfactory Bulb
  • 4:04 The Basil Ganglia
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Jeffries

Paul has taught psychology for over 10 years.

In this lesson, you'll learn about a division of the forebrain called the telencephalon. You'll learn about the functions of its structures and disorders that can result when these areas are damaged.

What Is the Telencephalon?

The human brain is made of over 100 billion nerve cells that make trillions of connections. Yet out of this complexity, scientists who study the brain have been able to identify distinct structures, and they have even begun to see how these structures are organized into systems.

The brain can be subdivided into three geographical parts: the hindbrain, the midbrain, and the forebrain. The forebrain can be further subdivided into the diencephalon and the telencephalon. In this lesson, you will learn about the telencephalon and the structures that comprise it: the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the olfactory bulb, and the basal ganglia.

The word telencephalon comes from two Greek roots: telos, meaning 'end,' and enkephalos, meaning 'brain.' So, telencephalon literally means the 'endbrain,' and in two ways, it is. First, the telencephalon is the last subdivision of the brain to develop in the human embryo. Second, it was the last part of the brain to evolve in humans.

The Cerebral Cortex

The Human Brain

The first thing you might notice about the human brain is its wrinkled outer surface. This surface is the cerebral cortex. One misconception about the brain is that the surface of a healthy brain should be smooth, and if a brain is wrinkled, it is diseased or from a very old person. However, the truth is that the outer layer of all healthy human brains is wrinkled. By crumpling brain tissue upon itself, early humans were able to develop larger and larger brains without greatly increasing the size of the skull.

A smooth brain surface indicates abnormal brain development or brain deterioration. One example of this is lissencephaly (meaning 'smooth brain'), a rare genetic disorder in which brain cells do not move into their correct locations during embryonic development, and the brain does not develop a normal wrinkled surface. Children born with lissencephaly have severe motor impairments, muscles spasms, seizures, difficulty swallowing, and intellectual impairment. They also show abnormal development of the hands, fingers, and toes.

The cerebral cortex can be anatomically divided into four lobes: the occipital, parietal, temporal, and frontal. These lobes are named after the skull bones that protect them. The division of the cortex into lobes provides a convenient shorthand for identifying the general location of features. However, we should not think of the lobes as discrete, isolated units. There are numerous pathways that allow the lobes to share information with each other and exchange information with areas outside the cortex.

The Hippocampus and Amygdala

The hippocampus (from the Greek word hippocampos, meaning 'seahorse') is tucked within the folds of the temporal lobe, near the middle of the brain. The hippocampus plays an important role in both emotion and memory. Although it isn't where memories are stored, the hippocampus makes possible the formation of new long-term memories. In fact, individuals with injuries to the hippocampus may not be able to form new memories.

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