Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Our brain can be broken down into a variety of structures, the oldest of which is made up of the brainstem, thalamus, and the cerebellum. The brainstem gives us our most basic functions like consciousness💭 (reticular formation), breathing and heartbeat❤️ (medulla), and coordination of movement🏃 (pons).
sits on top of the brainstem and receives and sorts all sensory input
(except smell) to other parts of the brain. Lastly, the cerebellum
sits at the rear of our brainstem and also processes sensory input👀, coordinated movement🚴, balance, and nonverbal learning and implicit memory🧠
The Limbic System
Next in brain development came the limbic system. When you see "limbic system," you should automatically think of emotions and drives
Within the limbic system exists the amygdala, which is linked to emotion😡 The hypothalamus is also in the limbic system and deals with maintaining our body’s homeostasis and reward systems (Four Fs: Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, Mating). The final structure in the limbic system is the hippocampus, which deals with memory, specifically, explicit memory.
Regions of the Brain
The rest of our brain is made up of higher-level cortices which make us who we are as humans🧍. The cerebral cortex is our ultimate control and processing center. There are also glial cells, which exist support, nourish, and protect our neurons. Glial cells are also believed to help in learning📚 and thinking🤔
There are also four lobes of the brain🧠:
Within the cerebral cortex are the frontal lobes which deal with speaking🗣️, planning🗓️, and judgment
The parietal lobes receive sensory input for touch and body position. The parietal lobes also contain the somatosensory cortex which registers touch and movement🚶
The occipital lobe deals with visual input👀
Finally, the temporal lobes deal with hearing👂
The most important piece to understanding brain structure and function are the association areas. Association areas allow us to have higher mental functions such as learning, remembering, thinking, and speaking. Basically, anything not found in the previously mentioned cortices takes place here.
Our brain is divided into hemispheres and in order for those hemispheres to communicate with one another, we need our corpus callosum. If the corpus callosum is severed (ex. to relieve symptoms of extreme seizures), our brain still functions in a fairly normal manner.
The key difference is called “split brain.” In a split-brain patient, both hemispheres operate independently from one another. For example, a person could be shown a separate image to each visual field. Then, when asked to draw what they have seen, each hand would independently draw a different image with the other side having no idea what was going on.
Image Courtesy of Tutor2u; LVF = left visual field. RVF = right visual field
The left side of the brain corresponds to your right hand and right visual field and vice versa. Everything is opposite!!
People who study cognitive neuroscience are interested in the biological processes that create our ability to think, particularly through the various neural connections that exist in the brain.
Another interesting aspect that goes into how we think is our brain’s dual processing capabilities. We can only take in and pay attention to a few things at a time, however, that doesn’t mean we have completely missed the information. Oftentimes information is processed via an unconscious track where we may be able to access it later even though we didn’t consciously attend to it.
For visual learners👀, here is a table summing up all of the information about brain structure above:
|Part of the Brain||Function|
|Brainstem||The oldest part of the brain; located near the spinal cord🦴 It is responsible for automatic survival functions and includes the next three parts.|
|Medulla||The base of the brainstem. Controls heartbeat ❤️ and breathing.|
|Reticular Formation||Nerve network that travels through the brainstem and thalamus. Plays a part in controlling arousal and consciousness💭|
|Pons||Part of the brainstem that controls movement🏃|
|Thalamus||The brain's sensory control center that receives messages and then directs them to corresponding lobes in the brain. Information about smell👃 is the only sense that doesn't pass through the thalamus|
|Cerebellum||Processes sensory information, coordinates movement and balance, enables implicit memories.|
|Basil Ganglia||Similar to cerebellum - controls movement, balance, implicit memory, and a little bit of emotion.|
|Limbic System||Neural system that includes the 3 functions below. Located in the hemispheres|
|Hippocampus||Processes explicit memory|
|Amygdala||Linked to emotion (fear😨 and aggression😡)|
|Hypothalamus||Helps regulate the endocrine system. Directs maintenance activities that have to do with the four Fs: Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, Mating |
|Cerebral Cortex||Ultimate control and information center made up of neural cells|
|Glial Cells||Support, nourish, and protect our neurons! Also help with learning and thinking🤔|
|Frontal Lobe||Deals with speaking🗣️, planning🗓️, and judgment aka higher-level thinking. Motor Cortex is in front of it and Broca's area is in the left frontal lobe|
|Parietal Lobe||Receives sensory input for movement and touch. Contains the somatosensory cortex|
|Occipital Lobe||Receives information from visual fields (your eyes)👀|
|Temporal Lobe||Deals with hearing👂 Receives information from the opposite ear and contains the Wernicke's area|
|Wernicke's area||Deals with understanding language|
|Broca's area||Deals with the production of language and speaking (Think: Broca Spoka)|
|Motor Cortex||Controls voluntary movements such as raising your hand|
|Somatosensory Cortex||Processes body touch and movement|
|Visual Cortex||Processes visual information as well|
|Association Areas||Control higher mental functions such as learning, remembering, thinking, and speaking.|