The brain speaks to us when it is not well. Knowledge of basic brain anatomy is essential to decoding many of the signs and symptoms seen in illnesses and diseases. More importantly, we just need to open our minds and listen to what it is trying to tell us. While some messages are difficult to decode, many of the most common and important signs and symptoms are actually quite loud and clear. This section will cover some brain anatomy and it’s basic structures and functions.

The brain structures include the cerebrum, the brainstem and the cerebellum. The cerebrum consists of two hemispheres (sides). Within this there are seven lobes: two frontal, two parietal, two temporal and one occipital. The lobes of the cerebrum are like hard drives on a computer. The lobes are for stored programs and memory, as well as for processing sensory input from the environment. Other functions include: motor commands, motor planning, thought, personality, olfaction, sensation and sensory integration, auditory integration, visual processing, taste, drive, emotion and memory. The covering of the cerebrum is called the cerebral cortex.

The brainstem consists of the midbrain, pons and the medulla oblongata. The brainstem controls several functions including: alertness, arousal, breathing, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, as well as other autonomic functions.

The cerebellum consists of two hemispheres between which is a worm-like structure called the vermis. Each hemisphere has three major lobes. The cerebellum is involved with coordination of voluntary motor movements, balance and equilibrium, and muscle tone.

Other Important Areas/Structures Of The Brain

The diencephalon or white matter, consisting of neuronal tissue containing mainly long myelinated axons, sits below the cerebral cortex (grey matter consisting of neuron cell bodies) and is part of the central processing unit or motherboard of the entire nervous system. The diencephalon includes the, thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus is referred to as the great sensory switchboard similar to a router for a computer.

The hypothalamus of the diencephalon sits below the thalamus and plays a role in many vital functions and vegetative systems, as well as memory. The hypothalamus also plays a role in regulation of the pituitary gland through releasing factors, which in turn controls many of the endocrine glands in the body such as the thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, testes and ovaries.

Additional important areas include the ventricles covered on separate pages as lateral ventricles, third ventricle and fourth ventricle, basal ganglia, limbic system and reticular activating system.

 

Due to the complexity of the brain’s circulation, cerebrospinal fluid, brain cooling, vertebral veins and vertebral arteries are discussed on separate pages. You may also find the basal ganglia and substantia nigra pages interesting as they are involved in certain neurodegenerative diseases. The Parkinson’s page touches on the basal ganglia and substantia nigra. My book covers in depth brain circulation, cerebrospinal fluid and of course neurodegenerative diseases of the brain, as well as other topics.