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About the Brain

The brain is a complicated and fascinating part of human anatomy, which many of us only understand at a very basic level. Brain tumours are also likely to be fairly remote concepts to the average person, perhaps until they have an impact upon personal circumstances.

About the Brain

The brain is the most complex part of the human body and is your decision and communication centre. It is a soft, spongy organ and like every other organ in the body, it is made up of cells. There are thought to be around 100 billion nerve cells, also known as neurons, plus 10-50 times more glial cells (mainly astrocytes). The nerve cells communicate with each other, as well as with other parts of the body, by sending messages called nerve impulses through a system of nerve pathways or networks. These cells are supported and held in place by glial cells which include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells.

The main parts of the brain are known as the cerebrum (the forebrain), cerebellum (the hindbrain) and the brain stem. In this diagram, you can move your mouse over the different parts of the brain to find out what they do.

Cerebrum: the cerebrum is the name for the largest region within the brain and is divided into two hemispheres - right and left. They are mirror images, but the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body and is responsible for emotional expressions, visual imagination and nonverbal processing, while the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is responsible for verbal, analytical and sequential thinking and logical processing.

Within these hemispheres, there are four general areas to the brain known as the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe. Each lobe has different features and functions and they are all extremely important.

The frontal lobe is the most anterior, situated right under the forehead. It plays a part in our impulse control, judgment, expressive language, working memory, motor functions, problem solving, and emotional response, as well as helping in planning, coordinating, controlling and executing behaviour.

The parietal lobe is situated near the back and top of the head and is capable of putting together sensory information from different parts of the body such as touch, pain, temperature, vision, hearing and memory. It is also vital for motor functions and the handling of objects.

The temporal lobe is positioned by the side of the head, above the ears. It is responsible for the processing of sound information and the understanding of language. It gives us our hearing ability and memory acquisition.

The occipital lobe is located in the most posterior position, at the back of the head. It gives us our vision, allowing us to see and interpret colour, light and movement. It is the smallest lobe out of the four, but it's still very important.

Cerebellum: the cerebellum is the back part of the brain located at the base of the skull. It is responsible for balance and coordination, activities which it carries out automatically.

Brain Stem: the brain stem exists deep within the brain, located at the bottom. It is the respiratory centre, controlling the basic functions essential to maintaining life, including blood pressure, breathing, heartbeat, eye movements and swallowing. All of the nerve fibres which connect the cerebral hemispheres with the cerebellum and spinal cord have to pass through the brain stem.


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