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Anatomy and Function of the Human Brain

Brigette Banaszak, Rebecca Gillaspy
  • Author
    Brigette Banaszak

    Brigette has a BS in Elementary Education and an MS in Gifted and Talented Education, both from the University of Wisconsin. She has taught math in both elementary and middle school, and is certified to teach grades K-8.

  • Instructor
    Rebecca Gillaspy

    Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Learn about parts of the brain and their functions. Discover the human brain's anatomy and structure. Learn about the cerebrum and cerebellum with a brain diagram. Updated: 03/28/2022

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Brain

The human brain, despite weighing only about three pounds, is the control center of the body. The brain controls everything from thought, memory, and motor skills to emotion, breathing, and the senses. The different parts of the brain each have a specific purpose, and together the brain's structures coordinate the body's vital functions. A brain definition should include mention of the central nervous system, which is composed of the brain, spinal cord, and certain important nerves, called cranial nerves, that originate in the brain.

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  • 0:01 Brain
  • 0:38 Cerebrum
  • 1:48 Cerebellum
  • 2:16 Brain Stem
  • 3:16 Pituitary Gland
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Parts of the Brain

A human brain is composed of several parts, each with its own function. The parts of the brain include the cerebrum, the cerebellum, the brain stem, and the pituitary gland. The brain structure is protected by the skull, which is composed of the cranium and the bones of the face. Layers of tissue between the cranium and brain cover the brain anatomy, which is cushioned by a clear liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. The brain anatomy is discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Cerebrum

The cerebrum, which controls thought and voluntary muscle actions, is the largest part of the brain. The cerebrum is divided into two halves, called hemispheres, which are connected by a structure called the corpus callosum. Each hemisphere of the outer layer of the cerebrum, the cortex, is composed of four lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe. The four lobes of the cerebrum are shown in the diagram.


The cerebrum, a part of the brain, is composed of four lobes

The cerebrum with frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes labeled


The cerebrum controls a wide range of functions, including memory, speech and language, personality, voluntary muscle movements, and interpreting information gathered from the senses. The two hemispheres of the cerebrum control opposite sides of the body; the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. Both hemispheres also control many different functions, but the left hemisphere generally controls speech, language, and mathematics, while the right hemisphere controls more creative pursuits, such as music or art.

One of the functions of the cerebrum is controlling voluntary muscle movement. The frontal lobe of the cerebrum makes a plan and sends a message through the nerves, along the spinal cord, and to the muscles. The cerebrum is also collecting data from the senses to control and adjust the movements of the muscles as needed.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum is located behind the cerebrum and on top of the brain stem. The main cerebellum function is to control coordination, posture, and balance. Although the cerebellum is not responsible for initiating muscle movement, it does organize and coordinate the movements of different muscle groups. The cerebellum also plays a key role in the development of muscle memory, which results from practice and allows people to perform actions such as riding a bike without consciously thinking through each step.

Brain Stem

The brain stem is located at the base of the brain, and it connects the brain to the spinal cord. There are three parts to the brain stem: the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla oblongata. The brain stem controls involuntary muscle movements, and it is responsible for such important life functions as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep. A person's heart continues beating and respiration continues, even while the person is asleep, thanks to the work of the brain stem. The brain stem sends signals to the muscles that control breathing, which ensures people continue to inhale and exhale while asleep or unconscious. All messages relayed from the body to the rest of the brain, and vice versa, travel through the brain stem.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does the human brain function?

The human brain is the control center of the body. Neurons, which are cells within the brain, send and receive chemical and electrical messages within the brain itself and between the brain and the rest of the body.

What are the parts of brain and their functions?

The brain is divided into different parts, each with its own important functions. The cerebrum controls thought and voluntary muscle actions, and it is the largest part of the brain. The cerebellum controls coordination, posture, and balance. The brain stem controls involuntary muscle movements and ensures the lungs and heart continue to work while sleeping. The pituitary gland is in charge of producing and releasing hormones.

Why is the brain the most important organ?

The brain is the most important organ because it controls all of the body's vital processes. The brain controls everything from thinking to breathing to moving to the beating of the human heart.

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