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ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF THE BRAIN

*The brain is divided into the cerebrum, diencephalon, brain stem, and cerebellum.

CEREBRUM  The largest and most obvious portion of the brain is the cerebrum, which is divided by a deep longitudinal fissure into two cerebral hemispheres. The two hemispheres are two separate entities but are connected by an arching band of white fibers, called the corpus callosum that provides a communication pathway between the two halves. Each cerebral hemisphere is divided into four lobes: the fontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe. FRONTAL LOBE  The frontal lobe is home to our cognitive thinking, and it is this process that determines and shapes an individual's personality. In human beings, the frontal lobe attains maturity when the individual is around the age of 25. This means that by the time we are 25 years of age, we have achieved a level of cognitive maturity. The frontal lobe is extremely vulnerable to injury due to its location as it's in front of the central cranium. The frontal lobe is made up of the anterior portion (prefrontal cortex) and the posterior portion, and is divided from the parietal lobe by the central sulcus. The anterior portion is responsible for higher cognitive functions, and the posterior portion consists of the premotor and motor areas, thus, governing our voluntary movements. The functions of the frontal lobe include reasoning, planning, organizing thoughts, behavior, sexual urges, emotions, problem-solving, judging, and organizing parts of speech and motor skills (movement). PARIETAL LOBE  The parietal lobe is located behind the central sulcus, and above the occipital lobe. It has four anatomical boundaries; the central sulcus, which separates the parietal lobe from the frontal lobe, the parieto-occipital sulcus which separates the parietal and occipital lobes, the lateral sulcus which separates the parietal from the temporal lobe, and the medial longitudinal fissure which divides the two hemispheres (right and left). The parietal lobe is responsible for integrating sensory information from various parts of the body. The functions of the parietal lobe include information processing, movement, spatial orientation, speech, visual perception, recognition, perception of stimuli, pain and touch sensation, cognition.

OCCIPITAL LOBE  The smallest of all the four lobes, the occipital lobes are located in the rearmost portion of the skull and because of their location, they are not particularly vulnerable to injury, although significant trauma can disrupt the visual-perceptual system. Disorders of the occipital lobe can cause visual illusions. Occipital lobe is located on the tentorium cerebelli, that separates the cerebrum from the cerebellum. It is responsible for visual perception system, as it contains the primary visual cortex. The functions of the occipital lobe include visual reception, visual-spatial processing, movement and color recognition.

TEMPORAL LOBE  There are two temporal lobes, each of which are located on each side of the brain; left and right, at about the level of the ears. The temporal lobes contain the primary auditory cortex, and hence, are responsible for all auditory processing. These lobes also contain the hippocampus, responsible for formation of long-term memory and sorting new information. The functions of both (left and right) temporal lobes include distinguishing and discrimination of smell and sound from other smells and sounds respectively. Between them, they control visual memory (right lobe) and verbal memory (left lobe), and thus, hearing, speech and memory.

DIENCEPHALON  The diencephalons is centrally located and is nearly surrounded by the cerebral hemispheres. It includes the thalamus, hypothalamus, and epithalamus. The thalamus, about 80 percent of the diencephalons, consists of two oval masses of gray matter that serve as relay stations for sensory impulses, except for the sense of smell, going to the cerebral cortex. The hypothalamus is a small region below the thalamus, which plays a key role in maintaining homeostasis because it regulates many visceral activities. The epithalamus is the most dorsal portion of the diencephalons. This small gland is involved with the onset of puberty and rhythmic cycles in the body.

BRAINSTEM  The brain stem is the region between the diencephalons and the spinal cord. It consists of three parts: midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. The midbrain is the most superior portion of the brain stem. The pons is the bulging middle portion of the brain stem. This region primarily consists of nerve fibers that form conduction tracts between the higher brain centers and spinal cord. The medulla oblongata, or simply medulla, extends inferiorly from the pons. It is continuous with the spinal cord at the foramen magnum. All the ascending (sensory) and descending (motor) nerve fibers connecting the brain and spinal cord pass through the medulla.

CEREBELLUM  The cerebellum, the second largest portion of the brain, is located below the occipital lobes of the cerebrum. Three paired bundles of myelinated nerve fibers, called cerebellar peduncles, form communication pathways between the cerebellum and other parts of the central nervous system

VENTRICLES AND CEREBROSPINAL FLUID  A series of interconnected, fluid-filled cavities are found within the brain. These cavities are the ventricles of the brain, and the fluid is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). SPINAL CORD  The spinal cord extends from the foramen magnum at the base of the skull to the level of the first lumbar vertebra. The cord is continuous with the medulla oblongata at theforamen magnum. Like the brain, the spinal cord is surrounded by bone, meninges, and cerebrospinal fluid. The spinal cord has two main functions:  Serving as a conduction pathway for impulses going to and from the brain. Sensory impulses travel to the brain on ascending tracts in the cord. Motor impulses travel on descending tracts.  Serving as a reflex center. The reflex arc is the functional unit of the nervous system. Reflexes are responses to stimuli that do not require conscious thought and consequently, they occur more quickly than reactions that require thought processes. For example, with the withdrawal reflex, the reflex action withdraws the affected part before you are aware of the pain. Many reflexes are mediated in the spinal cord without going to the higher brain centers.