This is how the brain works

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Last Medical Review: April 1, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elisabeth Vincent Hamelin
How the Brain Works (April 1, 2020)

The brain is involved in most of what we do, feel and experience. It is the one that gives us our personality and our emotions. It is the brain that makes us have a consciousness, that we can think and that we can remember. The brain also controls the functions of the body, such as our senses and movements.

In this text you can read about the different parts of the brain and the function of the different parts. The brain is included together with the spinal cord and nerves in the nervous system.

Different parts of the brain

The brain is protected inside the skull’s bones. It weighs just under 1.5 kg. The brain can be divided into the following parts:

  • The big brain makes up the greater part of the brain.
  • The lobes are different parts of the big brain.
  • The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the big brain.
  • The cerebellum lies between the two halves of the big brain and connects the two halves with each other.
  • The brain stem lies beneath the big brain and connects the big brain with the spinal cord.
  • The cerebellum is a smaller part of the brain and sits at the neck.
  • The meninges are three membranes that surround the entire brain.

The outer parts of the big brain

The big brain consists of two halves that sit together. The two halves of the brain cooperate a lot, but they also have some different tasks.

The left hemisphere is usually the one that controls language and speech. It is called dominant. The right hemisphere is usually more artistic and creative.

Feelings and movements are controlled by the opposite side of the brain, that is, movements in the right half of the body are controlled by the left half of the brain, and vice versa.

The big brain is divided into lobes

The surface of the big brain is wrinkled. The folds are called windings and between the folds lie pits. Some furrows are extra obvious and they divide both brain halves into lobes. The various lobes are called the forehead lobe, the head lobe, the temporal lobe and the neck lobe.

The lobbies have different tasks

The brain lobes have different tasks. In the forehead, all muscle movements that are controlled with will are controlled. In the brain lobe there is the center of feeling and taste. In the lobby, for example, there is the center for hearing and smell. In the neck lobby there are sight centers.

The parts of the body that you use most or that are most sensitive need the largest space in your brain. Therefore, the areas that control the hands, mouth, lips and tongue have a large space in the brain.

The cerebral cortex

The outer layer of the big brain is called the cortex or cortex. It consists of a gray brain substance containing nerve cells. The cerebral cortex is responsible for our consciousness and for thoughts, feelings and memory.

All of our conscious movements are also controlled from the cerebral cortex of the forehead lobe. Diseases of the cerebral cortex can therefore cause involuntary movements such as symptoms, such as seizures in epileptic seizures. Diseases of the neurons of the cerebral cortex can also make it difficult to perform voluntary movements, such as for example a CP injury or after a stroke.

The inner parts of the big brain

The inner brain of the brain is largely made up of white matter. The white substance consists of nerve fibers and of supporting cells called glial cells. The nerve fibers convey information between the nerve cells. This allows the different parts of the brain to work together.

The cerebellum joins the two halves of the big brain

The cerebellum is located between the two halves of the big brain. It consists of a large collection of nerve fibers that allow the two halves of the brain to send signals to each other. In this way, the activities of the two brain halves are coordinated.

There are voids inside the brain

In the brain are four cavities called ventricles. The ventricles are connected to each other and contain a clear fluid called brain-spinal cord fluid. It can also be called liquor. The fluid is formed in special blood vessels in the ventricles, and it also surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The liquid is shock absorbing and therefore provides good protection. The brain-spinal fluid transports nutrients to the brain and waste products from it.

Basal ganglia

Deep within the brain are groups of nerve cells gathered in so-called nuclei. They are called basal ganglia. They are of great importance to our will-driven movements. Diseases of the basal ganglia may therefore cause involuntary movements, such as in Huntington’s disease, or difficulty in performing voluntary movements, such as in Parkinson’s disease.

Thalamus

Inside the big brain sits the Talamus. There comes all the information about temperature, touch and pain. In Talamus, the information is passed on to different parts of the cerebral cortex and our consciousness.

Hypothalamus and pituitary gland

The hypothalamus is under the thalamus and controls, among other things, body temperature, hunger, thirst, sexual desire and growth. This is partly done with the help of the pituitary gland, which is a gland that is connected to the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland produces hormones which then stimulate other glands in the body to form hormones.

The brain stem controls breathing, blood pressure and heart rate

The brain stem lies beneath the big brain. The lower part of the brain stem is called the extended marrow. It connects the big brain with the spinal cord. The brain stem receives information from the body’s signals and sends them to the cortex.

The brain stem controls the body’s hormone system, breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, metabolism and your alertness. Together with the hypothalamus, the brain stem also controls blood pressure and heart rate. Reflections such as swallowing and sneezing are also controlled from the brain stem.

The cerebellum is important for balance and movement

The cerebellum is located in the back of your head, inside the neck bone. For example, the cerebellum is important for balance. It is also important for regulating both conscious and unconscious movements. The cerebellum does not control the movements itself, but it receives information about the body’s position and movements. Then the cerebellum coordinates this information with the signals of will-driven movements coming from the big brain. This allows your movements to adapt to the environment you are in. It allows you to move in different ways when, for example, you walk on slippery surfaces, uneven ground, or on a steep hill.

Three brain membranes surround the brain

The primary task of the meninges is to protect the brain. We have three meninges:

  • The hard cornea is the outermost and is the most powerful.
  • The cobweb is the middle one. The membrane has its name because it is thin like a spider web.
  • The soft meninges are innermost.

Between the cobweb and the innermost soft cornea are nerve fibers. They combine the two membranes with each other. In the space between these two membranes is brain-spinal fluid. Here also goes the major arteries of the brain.

The brain can change

The brain has the ability to adapt and change. It is called that the brain is plastic. It can change its structure by creating new connections between the nerve cells. The brain develops until we are about 20 years old but remain plastic throughout life, but to a much lesser extent when we become adults than when we are children. We benefit from this when we learn new things or when the brain recovers from an injury.

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