Parts of the Brain and Their Functions

27 March, 2021
The brain has many parts and many functions that are evidence of its enormous complexity. Science has already managed to unravel and understand many mysteries of this organ; although, there are still important enigmas that are yet to be deciphered.

We’ve slowly come to know and decipher the parts of the brain and their functions but there are still many enigmas surrounding the subject. This is because it’s the most complex system in the entire known universe and, for this reason, science hasn’t been able to fully understand it.

Let’s first explain some ideas in order to talk be able to follow up with the parts of the brain and their functions. There’s the head, the encephalon, and the cerebrum. The head includes the encephalon and the cerebrum, but it also includes other structures that correspond to the senses and the face.

The encephalon comprises every part of the nervous system contained in the skull. This, together with the spinal cord, makes up the central nervous system. The encephalon contains the cerebrum together with the thalamus, hypothalamus, medulla oblongata, and cerebellum.

Thus, the brain comprises only the following components: cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala. Its other structures aren’t part of the cerebrum, strictly speaking.

The cerebral cortex and its functions

The two sides of the brain.

The cerebral cortex is the most visible part of the brain. It’s a thin, gray sheet that covers the entire surface of the cerebral hemispheres. Also, it’s the most developed component of all parts of the brain and its functions, without a doubt.

Furthermore, the cerebral cortex, or simply cortex, has a rough, folded appearance. It represents 80% of the total weight of the brain and contains 20% of the total number of neurons — brain cells. It also has 60 million cells that aren’t neurons.

This cortex has three main components: the archicortex, the paleocortex, and the neocortex. The archicortex is the oldest part and develops primitive functions, such as memory and emotions.

The paleocortex was the next to evolve in living beings and comprises the olfactory pathway termination areas. In humans, the paleocortex performs pre-rational activities associated with intuition and impulse.

Finally, there’s the neocortex, which is the most evolved part of the cerebral cortex. It’s responsible for carrying out the processes of reasoning and consciousness. It houses several lobes and subdivisions.

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The lobes are a fundamental part of the cerebral cortex

The lobes are among the parts of the brain that are crucial for carrying out brain functions. There are six of them in total and each of them fulfills a specific, but not independent, role.

  • The frontal lobe is in the anterior area, in front of the fissure of Rolando. It allows you to perform the executive functions. These are attention, planning, sequencing, and reorientation. Also, it makes it possible for you to direct your behavior towards a certain end.
  • The function of the parietal lobe is basically to perceive the sensations of heat, cold, touch, pain, and pressure. It also coordinates balance.
  • The occipital lobe is at the back of the cerebral hemispheres and its function is to process visual data. It’s responsible for spatial recognition and discrimination of colors and movement.
  • The temporal lobe is more or less behind the temples and is where signals from all parts of the cortex converge. It allows decoding auditory stimuli — understanding speech or languages such as music. In addition, it regulates the emotions of anger, anxiety, and pleasure.
  • The insula is in the deep area of the lateral surface of the brain and some believe it’s related to complex emotions such as love, hate, and sadness. It also plays an important role in the sensation of pain, conscious desires, and addictions.
  • The limbic lobe corresponds to those who know it as the limbic system and is involved in alertness and emotions. It regulates attention, motivation, and some learning and memory processes.

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Other parts of the brain and their functions

A series of MRIs.

The remaining parts of the brain and their functions are:

  • The basal ganglia, which are a group of structures located below the cerebral cortex. Also, they allow us to perform and automate complex movements such as writing, speaking, and gesturing. In addition, they modulate the beginning and end of movements and influence posture.
  • The hippocampus is an elongated structure located inside the medial area of the temporal lobe. It plays an important role in the formation of new memories, spatial orientation, and the acquisition of new motor learning.
  • The amygdala is the nuclei of neurons located in the deep zone of the temporal lobes. It’s associated with the functions of emotional memory and memory consolidation in general. It modulates self-preservation responses in the alimentary, sexual, and aggressive spheres.

Braidot, N. (2014). Cómo funciona tu cerebro. Barcelona: Planeta.