Human Brain

Image Caption : Brain and Head Anatomy : The limbic system is composed of structures within and below the cortex, such as the hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus. It deals with the interpretation of emotions, motivation, the process of learning, and the storage and retrieval of memory.


The brain is the part of the central nervous system that is contained in the cranial cavity of the skull. It includes the cerebral cortex, limbic system, basal ganglia, thalamus, hypothalamus, and cerebellum. There are three different ways that a brain can be sectioned in order to view internal structures: a sagittal section cuts the brain left to right, as shown in Figureb, a coronal section cuts the brain front to back, as shown in Figurea, and a horizontal section cuts the brain top to bottom.

Cerebral Cortex

The outermost part of the brain is a thick piece of nervous system tissue called the cerebral cortex, which is folded into hills calledgyri (singular: gyrus) and valleys called sulci (singular: sulcus). The cortex is made up of two hemispheres-right and left-which are separated by a large sulcus. A thick fiber bundle called the corpus callosum (Latin: "tough body") connects the two hemispheres and allows information to be passed from one side to the other. Although there are some brain functions that are localized more to one hemisphere than the other, the functions of the two hemispheres are largely redundant. In fact, sometimes (very rarely) an entire hemisphere is removed to treat severe epilepsy. While patients do suffer some deficits following the surgery, they can have surprisingly few problems, especially when the surgery is performed on children who have very immature nervous systems.

Illustration shows coronal (front) and sagittal (side) sections of a human brain. In the coronal section, the large upper part of the brain, called the cerebral cortex, is divided into left and right hemispheres. A cavity resembling butterfly wings exists between the left and right cortex. The corpus callosum is a band that connects the two hemispheres together, just above this cavity. The surface of the cerebral cortex contains bumpy protrusions called gyri. The cerebral cortex is anchored by the brain stem, which connects with the spinal cord. On either side of the brainstem tucked beneath the cerebral cortex is the cerebellum. The surface of the cerebellum is bumpy, but not as bumpy as the cerebral cortex. The sagittal section reveals that the cerebral cortex makes up the front and top part of the brain, while the brainstem and cerebellum make up the lower back part. The oval thalamus sits in the cavity in the middle of the cerebral cortex. The corpus callosum wraps around the top part thalamus. The basal ganglia wraps around the corpus callosum, starting at the lower front part of the brain and continuing three-quarters of the way around so the back end almost meets the front end. The basal ganglia is separated into segments that are connected along the top and bottom. The amygdala is a spherical structure at the end of the basal ganglia.

These illustrations show the (a) coronal and (b) sagittal sections of the human brain.

In other surgeries to treat severe epilepsy, the corpus callosum is cut instead of removing an entire hemisphere. This causes a condition called split-brain, which gives insights into unique functions of the two hemispheres. For example, when an object is presented to patients' left visual field, they may be unable to verbally name the object (and may claim to not have seen an object at all). This is because the visual input from the left visual field crosses and enters the right hemisphere and cannot then signal to the speech center, which generally is found in the left side of the brain. Remarkably, if a split-brain patient is asked to pick up a specific object out of a group of objects with the left hand, the patient will be able to do so but will still be unable to vocally identify it.

Each cortical hemisphere contains regions called lobes that are involved in different functions. Scientists use various techniques to determine what brain areas are involved in different functions: they examine patients who have had injuries or diseases that affect specific areas and see how those areas are related to functional deficits. They also conduct animal studies where they stimulate brain areas and see if there are any behavioral changes. They use a technique called transmagnetic stimulation (TMS) to temporarily deactivate specific parts of the cortex using strong magnets placed outside the head; and they use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at changes in oxygenated blood flow in particular brain regions that correlate with specific behavioral tasks. These techniques, and others, have given great insight into the functions of different brain regions but have also showed that any given brain area can be involved in more than one behavior or process, and any given behavior or process generally involves neurons in multiple brain areas. That being said, each hemisphere of the mammalian cerebral cortex can be broken down into four functionally and spatially defined lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. Figure illustrates these four lobes of the human cerebral cortex.

Sagittal, or side view of the human brain shows the different lobes of the cerebral cortex. The frontal lobe is at the front center of the brain. The parietal lobe is at the top back part of the brain. The occipital lobe is at the back of the brain, and the temporal lobe is at the bottom center of the brain. The motor cortex is the back of the frontal lobe, and the olfactory bulb is the bottom part. The somatosensory cortex is the front part of the parietal lobe. The brainstem is beneath the temporal lobe, and the cerebellum is beneath the occipital lobe.

The human cerebral cortex includes the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes.

The frontal lobe is located at the front of the brain, over the eyes. This lobe contains the olfactory bulb, which processes smells. The frontal lobe also contains the motor cortex, which is important for planning and implementing movement. Areas within the motor cortex map to different muscle groups, and there is some organization to this map, as shown in Figure. For example, the neurons that control movement of the fingers are next to the neurons that control movement of the hand. Neurons in the frontal lobe also control cognitive functions like maintaining attention, speech, and decision-making. Studies of humans who have damaged their frontal lobes show that parts of this area are involved in personality, socialization, and assessing risk.

Diagram shows the location of motor control for various muscle groups on the right hemisphere cerebral cortex. From the top middle of the motor cortex to the bottom right, the order of areas controlled is toes, ankles, knees, hips, trunk, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, thumbs, neck, eyebrows and eyelids, eyeballs, face, lips, jaw, tongue, salivation, chewing and swallowing.

Different parts of the motor cortex control different muscle groups. Muscle groups that are neighbors in the body are generally controlled by neighboring regions of the motor cortex as well. For example, the neurons that control finger movement are near the neurons that control hand movement.

The parietal lobe is located at the top of the brain. Neurons in the parietal lobe are involved in speech and also reading. Two of the parietal lobe's main functions are processing somatosensation-touch sensations like pressure, pain, heat, cold-and processing proprioception-the sense of how parts of the body are oriented in space. The parietal lobe contains a somatosensory map of the body similar to the motor cortex.

The occipital lobe is located at the back of the brain. It is primarily involved in vision-seeing, recognizing, and identifying the visual world.

The temporal lobe is located at the base of the brain by your ears and is primarily involved in processing and interpreting sounds. It also contains the hippocampus (Greek for "seahorse")-a structure that processes memory formation. The hippocampus is illustrated in Figure. The role of the hippocampus in memory was partially determined by studying one famous epileptic patient, HM, who had both sides of his hippocampus removed in an attempt to cure his epilepsy. His seizures went away, but he could no longer form new memories (although he could remember some facts from before his surgery and could learn new motor tasks).



structure within the limbic system that processes fear

arachnoid mater

spiderweb-like middle layer of the meninges that cover the central nervous system

basal ganglia

interconnected collections of cells in the brain that are involved in movement and motivation; also known as basal nuclei

basal nuclei

see basal ganglia


portion of the brain that connects with the spinal cord; controls basic nervous system functions like breathing, heart rate, and swallowing


brain structure involved in posture, motor coordination, and learning new motor actions

cerebral cortex

outermost sheet of brain tissue; involved in many higher-order functions

choroid plexus

spongy tissue within ventricles that produces cerebrospinal fluid

cingulate gyrus

helps regulate emotions and pain; thought to directly drive the body's conscious response to unpleasant experiences

corpus callosum

thick fiber bundle that connects the cerebral hemispheres

cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and fills the ventricles and central canal; acts as a shock absorber and circulates material throughout the brain and spinal cord.

dura mater

tough outermost layer that covers the central nervous system

frontal lobe

part of the cerebral cortex that contains the motor cortex and areas involved in planning, attention, and language


(plural: gyri) ridged protrusions in the cortex


brain structure in the temporal lobe involved in processing memories


brain structure that controls hormone release and body homeostasis

limbic system

connected brain areas that process emotion and motivation


membrane that covers and protects the central nervous system

occipital lobe

part of the cerebral cortex that contains visual cortex and processes visual stimuli

parietal lobe

part of the cerebral cortex involved in processing touch and the sense of the body in space

pia mater

thin membrane layer directly covering the brain and spinal cord


sense about how parts of the body are oriented in space


sense of touch

spinal cord

thick fiber bundle that connects the brain with peripheral nerves; transmits sensory and motor information; contains neurons that control motor reflexes


(plural: sulci) indents or "valleys" in the cortex

temporal lobe

part of the cerebral cortex that processes auditory input; parts of the temporal lobe are involved in speech, memory, and emotion processing


brain area that relays sensory information to the cortex


cavity within brain that contains cerebrospinal fluid

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The cerebrum is the part of the brain that receives and processes conscious sensation, generates thought, and controls conscious activity. It is the uppermost and largest part of the brain and is divided into left and right hemispheres, which are joined by and communicated through the corpus callosum.

Each cerebral hemisphere is divided into five lobes, four of which have the same name as the bone over them: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe. A fifth lobe, the insula or Island of Reil, lies deep within the lateralsulcus.

Illustration of the lobes of the cerebrum


The Cerebellum is a cauliflower-shaped section of the brain located in the hindbrain, at the bottom rear of the head, directly behind the pons. The cerebellum is a complex system mostly dedicated to the intricate coordination of voluntary movement, including walking and balance. Damage to the cerebellum leaves the sufferer with a gait that appears drunken and is difficult to control.

Ventricles and Cerebrospinal Fluid

A series of interconnected, fluid-filled cavities called ventricles lie within the brain. The fluid is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which also circulates over the outside of the brain and spinal cord.

Brain Stem

The brain stem is the part of the brain continuous with the spinal cord and comprising the medulla oblongata, pons, midbrain, and parts of the hypothalamus.


The tentorium is a fold of the dura mater, which separates the cerebellum from the cerebrum, and often encloses a process or plate of the skull called the bony tentorium.


The human brain is the central organ of the human nervous system. The human brain, with the spinal cord, makes up the central nervous system. The brain consists of the cerebrum, the brainstem and the cerebellum. The brain is the organ that controls most of the activities of the body. The brain processes, integrates, and coordinates all of the information it receives from the sense organs. Sensory information is interpreted and analysed, and decisions are made as to the instructions transmitted to the rest of the body. The brain is contained in, and protected by, the skull bones of the head.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain. It is divided into two cerebral hemispheres which are covered by the cerebral cortex. The cortex is an outer layer of grey matter, that covers the core of white matter. The cortex is split into the neocortex and the much smaller allocortex. The neocortex is made up of six neuronal layers, and the allocortex has three or four such layers. Each hemisphere is conventionally divided into four lobes – the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes. The frontal lobe is associated with executive functions including self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought, while the occipital lobe is dedicated to vision. Within each lobe, there are also cortical areas associated with specific functions, such as the sensory, a motor and association regions. Although the left and right hemispheres are broadly similar in shape and function, some functions are associated with a particular side of the brain, such as language in the left and visual-spatial ability in the right. The hemispheres are connected by nerve tracts known as commisures, the largest being the corpus callosum.

The cerebrum is connected by the brainstem to the spinal cord. The brainstem consists of the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla oblongata. The cerebellum is connected to the brainstem by pairs of tracts known as peduncles. Within the cerebrum is the ventricular system of the brain, which consists of four ventricles in which cerebrospinal fluid is produced and circulated. Underneath the cerebral cortex, several important structures are located, including the thalamus, the epithalamus, the pineal gland, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the subthalamus; the limbic structures, including the amygdala and the hippocampus; the various nuclei of the basal ganglia; the basal forebrain structures, and the three circumventricular organs.

The cells of the brain include neurons and supportive glial cells. There are more than 86 billion neurons in the brain and a more or less equal number of other cells. Brain activity is made possible by the interconnections of neurons that are linked together to reach their targets. These connections form various neural networks of neural pathways and circuits. The whole circuitry of the brain is driven by the process of neurotransmission.

The brain is protected by the skull, suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, and isolated from the bloodstream by the blood–brain barrier. However, the brain is still susceptible to damage, disease, and infection. Damage can be caused by trauma, or a loss of blood supply known as a stroke. The brain is also susceptible to degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis. A number of psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and clinical depression, are thought to be associated with brain dysfunctions, although the nature of these is not well understood. The brain can also be the site of tumors, both benign and malignant. Malignant tumors mostly originate from sites outside the brain.

The study of the anatomy of the brain is neuroanatomy, while the study of its function is neuroscience. A number of different techniques are used to study the brain. Brain specimens from other animals, which may be examined microscopically, have been a traditional source of much information. Medical imaging technologies such as functional neuroimaging and electroencephalography (EEG) recordings are important techniques in studying the brain. Examining the medical history of people with brain injury has also provided great insight into the function of each part of the brain.

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