Brain Anatomy 101: Major Structures and Functions
Nov 5, 2019
Brain Anatomy 101: Major Structures and Functions

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Weighing only three pounds on average, the adult brain may seem small; however, as the control center for all human functions, the brain’s big role in our bodies is undeniable. In the following article, we will explore major parts of the brain and their distinct roles in controlling our conscious and unconscious activities.

The brain is composed of three parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brainstem.

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Cerebrum
The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It is divided into two hemispheres, right and left. Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body (i.e. the left side of the brain controls movement of the right arm and leg).

The cerebrum has four lobes that span the hemispheres: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. Below are the functions of each lobe:

Frontal lobe: higher-level thinking (judgement, problem-solving, planning), personality (social behavior, impulse control, emotions), producing language, producing voluntary movement

Parietal lobe: interpreting touch sensation (temperature, pressure, pain, position in space), interpreting taste sensation

Temporal lobe: hearing, smell, memory, understanding language

Occipital lobe: vision

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Cerebellum
Cerebellum is Latin for “little brain”. This structure sits below the cerebrum. The cerebellum is responsible for the control of voluntary movement, including balance, posture, and coordination.

Brainstem
The brainstem controls automatic processes including breathing, heart rate, digestion, sleeping, and waking. It lies at the base of the cerebrum and cerebellum, sending messages from these areas to the spinal cord.

Brain anatomy is very complex, containing many more subdivisions, structures, and functions than those listed above. This information constitutes a basic understanding of a bodily organ with many responsibilities in keeping us alive and making us who we are.

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  1. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2019). Anatomy of the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Anatomy-of-the-Brain.

  2. Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. (2019). About Brain Injury: A Guide to Brain Anatomy. Roseville, MN.

Alison Scarpa
Clinical Manager / Occupational Therapist

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