The brain is a remarkably dynamic, adaptable organ that integrates information from all of our senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste) and controls our behaviour. It's what makes us who we are as humans and as individuals. The brain consists of billions of cells called neurons (nerve cells) and glia (glial cells provide structural and metabolic support). If we understand this, we will understand why brain disorders can have such an immense impact on our lives.
The brain at a glance
The purple (A), orange (B), blue (C), and green (D) areas of the brain seen here are collectively known as the “cerebrum”, the largest part of the brain comprised of two hemispheres (left and right). The outer surface of the cerebrum is called the “cortex” (meaning “bark” or “crust” in Latin). The cerebrum is often characterized by the structure and function of four "lobes": the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.
Frontal Lobes (A)
Emotional regulation, thinking, planning, organizing, integrating different aspects of behaviour, short-term memory and movement happen here. Its importance is centred on the fact that it has the most reciprocal (back and forth) connections to other parts of the brain.
Parietal Lobes (B)
Close your eyes. What do you smell? This is where sensory information including touch, taste and temperature are interpreted. They are also important for visuo-spatial perception and integration, for aspects of language and for locating where things are in space.
Occipital Lobes (C)
Did you know that your eyes are sometimes considered part of your brain? That’s because they are the portal for visual information to get to the occipital lobes. This part of the brain processes and links the visual content from what you see to images banked in your memory.
Temporal Lobes (D)
The temporal lobes perform high level visual processing like interpreting faces (your own facial recognition software) and memory. They are also responsible for auditory processing like comprehension, speech, language and even music skills.
Two other important brain structures shown here are the cerebellum (E) and the brain stem (F).
The cerebellum is found below and behind the rest of the brain which explains why it means "little brain" in Latin. The functions of the cerebellum are still being debated, although its role in coordinating movements is certain.
The brain stem connects the brain to the rest of the body via the spinal cord. It controls many essential functions, such as regulating heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.