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Anatomy of the Brain

What is the central nervous system (CNS)?

The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is an important organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, respirations, temperature, hunger, and every process that regulates our body.

What are the different parts of the brain?

Illustration of lateral view of brain and divisions into cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem
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The brain can be divided into the cerebrum, brainstem, and cerebellum:

  • Cerebrum. The cerebrum (supratentorial or front of brain) is composed of the right and left hemispheres. Functions of the cerebrum include: initiation of movement, coordination of movement, temperature, touch, vision, hearing, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, emotions, and learning.

  • Brainstem. The brainstem (midline or middle of brain) includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. Functions of this area include: movement of the eyes and mouth, relaying sensory messages (hot, pain, loud, etc.), hunger, respirations, consciousness, cardiac function, body temperature, involuntary muscle movements, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing.

  • Cerebellum. The cerebellum (infratentorial or back of brain) is located at the back of the head. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance, and equilibrium.

More specifically, other parts of the brain include the following:

Anatomy of  the brain, adult
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  • Pons. A deep part of the brain, located in the brainstem, the pons contains many of the control areas for eye and face movements.

  • Medulla. The lowest part of the brainstem, the medulla is the most vital part of the entire brain and contains important control centers for the heart and lungs.

  • Spinal cord. A large bundle of nerve fibers located in the back that extends from the base of the brain to the lower back, the spinal cord carries messages to and from the brain and the rest of the body.

  • Frontal lobe. The largest section of the brain located in the front of the head, the frontal lobe is involved in personality characteristics and movement. Recognition of smell usually involves parts of the frontal lobe.

  • Parietal lobe. The middle part of the brain, the parietal lobe helps a person to identify objects and understand spatial relationships (where one's body is compared to objects around the person). The parietal lobe is also involved in interpreting pain and touch in the body.

  • Occipital lobe. The occipital lobe is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision.

  • Temporal lobe. The sides of the brain, these temporal lobes are involved in memory, speech, musical rhythm, and some degree of smell recognition.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: Weisbart, Ed, M.D.
Last Review Date: 6/16/2012
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