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Functions of our Brain

Sandhya Basu


You have seen in the previous blogs that our brain guides most of our behaviors. From emotions, to stimulating cognitive growth like memory, concentration, etc., our brains just take care of it all! But how does the brain, single-handedly, be responsible for all our behaviors?! It does so with the help its various regions. Each region of the brain is responsible for a specialized function, that in turn, guides our actions in every aspect of our life.





Whether you are studying in school, preparing for an entrance exam, or just simply curious about the grandiosity of our brains; this blog will help you understand the various parts of the brain and its functions.


The brain is an important organ of our body because of its ability to serve us physiologically and emotionally. On one hand, the brain is responsible for our movements, posture, breathing, etc. While on the other hand, it is also responsible for attaching meaning to our environment and guides our behaviors. It controls our thoughts and emotions by, for example, determining how we respond in a stressful situation. It acts as our body’s control tower!


Given the vastness of its functions, the brain is divided into many compartments. All these compartments are made up of a billion nerve cells that keep communicating with the body to perform various functions. The spinal cord acts like a ‘telephone cord or wire’ and relays information from the brain to the various body organs.

Let us now look into some of the important brain structures that make us who we are: humans!

  1. The Cerebrum: It is the largest part of the brain. All our thoughts and actions are determined by the cerebrum. It is further divided into the following four lobe-

  2. Frontal Lobe: this is the decision-making center of the brain. It is responsible for planning, reasoning, problem-solving, and related functions. It is located in the frontal area of the brain (near our forehead).

  3. Parietal Lobe: it is located behind the frontal lobe. It is majorly responsible for our visual functions, understanding languages, and space orientation.

  4. Occipital Lobe: it is located at the back of our head and controls all visual-related information like colors, shapes, and angles of everything we see through our eyes.

  5. Temporal Lobe: located at the sides (near our ears), it processes auditory stimuli and helps with memory and speech.

  6. The Cerebellum: It is a smaller version of our cortex. It is responsible for our everyday tasks like posture, movement, coordination in our limbs, balance, etc. It contains the highest number of neurons.

  7. The Limbic System: Also called the ‘emotional brain’, it is found inside the cerebrum and consists of the following structures-

  8. Amygdala- it plays an important role in understanding and regulating all our emotions, especially fear. So, the next time you get scared of a barking dog, know that its your amygdala at play!

  9. Hippocampus- all our memories are consolidated and stored with the help of hippocampus. It transforms short-term memory into permanent ones. Thank the hippocampus, if your memory game is strong!

  10. Hypothalamus- this brain region is responsible for our sleep-wake cycles and hunger. It also helps in releasing hormones in our body.

  11. Thalamus- all our senses pass through the thalamus to get processed and get categorized as touch, sight, and smell. If you can process these senses, then its your thalamus that’s doing the job!

  12. The Brain Stem: It is located at the extreme back of the brain and connects the spinal cord with the brain. All messages are passed through the spinal cord with the help of the brain stem. It is also responsible for the basic life sustaining functions like our heartbeat and breathing.

These brain regions form just the tip of the iceberg! There are many more regions of the brain that perform super-specialized functions like enabling us to speak (Broca’s area) to regulating the nerves in our face, eyes, and ears (pons)! Though explaining all brain regions is beyond the scope of this blog, we will nonetheless give you a glimpse of all brain regions through a simple concept map.




Figure 01: Concept map of brain regions


The forebrain, midbrain, and the hindbrain together perform various life sustaining functions. Apart from these regions, there are other structures that make sure that the brain is able to do its job!


For instance, the skull houses the brain and protects its soft tissues from trauma and other environmental toxins. The meninges (another brain region) act like cushions to the brain. They protect the brain from displacement, clean waste secretions, and transfer food and waste from the brain to the body. They do so by adding three layers of tissue to the brain—known as the dura matter, arachnoid, and pia matter. Also, the arteries of the heart supply blood and oxygen continuously to the brain. Given the brain’s vast functions, its cells need oxygen and other nutrients all the time. In fact, the brain consumes approximately 20% of the body’s blood supply!


The human brain is an incredibly hardworking organ of our body. It oversees most of our functions in both physiological and psychological domains. Knowing this three-pound five-star organ is extremely important as it is responsible for our very own survival!


References

  1. Ackerman, S. (1992). Discovering the brain.

  2. Bechtel, W. (2003). Modules, brain parts, and evolutionary psychology. In Evolutionary Psychology (pp. 211-227). Springer, Boston, MA.

  3. Johnson, M. H. (2003). Development of human brain functions. Biological psychiatry, 54(12), 1312-1316.

  4. Tucker, D. M. (1981). Lateral brain function, emotion, and conceptualization. Psychological bulletin, 89(1), 19.

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