It’s Brain Awareness Month!

The human brain is a marvel. Everything from thought to memory to emotion is controlled by the brain, which only underscores how impressive this incredible organ is. The word “brain” is something of an umbrella term to refer to an organ where various complex tasks are performed. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that, at a high level, the brain can be divided into three main parts: the cerebrum, brainstem, and cerebellum. Each of these parts serves different functions.

Cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. The cerebrum is located in the front area of the skull and consists of two cerebral hemispheres, left and right. The National Cancer Institute notes that areas within the cerebrum control muscle function, speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning. The cerebrum also enables actions associated with the senses, including vision, hearing, and touch.

Each hemisphere within the cerebrum controls half of the body. Johns Hopkins notes that the right half of the cerebrum controls the left side of the body, while the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. These hemispheres communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, a centrally located C-shaped structure of white matter and nerve pathways.

Brainstem. The brainstem is the part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord. The brainstem is made up of the midbrain, pons, and medulla. The midbrain is a complex structure that facilitates various functions, including hearing and movement and calculating responses. The pons is part of the central nervous system and is located at the base of the brain, where it serves as a bridge between the midbrain and the medulla oblongata. Nerves within the pons enable a host of activities, including chewing, blinking, focusing vision, and facial expression, among others. The medulla is at the bottom of the brainstem where the brain meets the spinal cord. The medulla regulates many activities that are vital to survival, including heart rhythm, breathing, and blood flow.

Cerebellum. Johns Hopkins notes that the cerebellum is often referred to as the “little brain.” That’s because it’s roughly the size of a fist. Located at the back of the brain between the cerebrum and the brain stem, the cerebellum controls balance for walking, standing, and other voluntary muscle movements. Johns Hopkins notes that studies are exploring the role of the cerebellum in thought, emotions, and social behavior. In addition, studies examining a potential link between the cerebellum and addiction, autism, and schizophrenia are ongoing.

The brain is a complex and incredible organ. Each area within the brain has its own unique role to play.