Online Healthcare MBA Program

How the Brain Works

The brain is the primary organ of the body’s nervous system. It is the control center of the body, and the brain and the spinal cord combine to make up the central nervous system. The central nervous system works to receive and interpret information from the body’s sense organs and uses that information to send instructions to areas of the body.

Structure of the Brain
The human brain is divided into three parts: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. The forebrain is at the top of the brain and is comprised of the cerebrum, thalamus, and hypothalamus. The cerebrum is where reason, memory, planning, and sensory integration come from. The cerebrum is where all conscious thought develops. The cerebrum can impact the functions of the other, lower regions in the brain. The thalamus has the job of relaying information between sensory receptors and to other parts of the brain for processing. The thalamus can be thought of as a doctor diagnosing a patient: It identifies information received through the senses and determines where the information needs to go within the brain. The hypothalamus is located above the pituitary gland and below the thalamus: Its function is to handle motivational behaviors, like letting us know that we are thirsty or hungry. It also helps to maintain our body temperature. The hypothalamus helps to connect the endocrine and nervous systems, too.

The midbrain controls hearing, vision, and alertness, among other functions. It is comprised of the tectum and the tegmentum. The tectum is the part of the midbrain that is responsible for auditory and visual reflexes. The tegmentum is an area within the brain stem that makes up the floor of the midbrain. It is responsible for many of your reflexes.

The hindbrain is also known as the brain stem. It is located at the back and bottom of the brain, connecting to the spinal cord. It is comprised of the medulla, the cerebellum, and the pons. The medulla regulates life functions such as heart rate, breathing, and swallowing. It is considered the most important part of the brain: A person can’t live without the involuntary functions of the medulla. The cerebellum controls balance and the coordination of the muscles of the body. The unique shape of the cerebellum makes it an identifiable part of the brain. It is responsible for many of the routine, voluntary things we do each day, such as walking and writing. The pons is involved in breathing, sensations such as hearing and taste, and communication between different areas of the brain.

Functions of the Brain
The cerebrum comprises approximately 2/3 of the total mass of the brain. It is divided into left and right hemispheres. It is also divided into four lobes: the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes. The frontal lobe handles things like reasoning, speech, and problem-solving. The parietal lobe is associated with movement and orientation. The occipital lobe is associated with visual processing. The temporal lobe is associated with perception of auditory stimuli and memory. The corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres. Its function is to control all voluntary actions of the body, including movement, sensory processing, olfaction, language and communication, and learning. It is the operation center for reason, planning, and memory.

The limbic system is the emotional brain. It is located within the cerebrum and made up of the hypothalamus, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. The amygdala is in the center of the limbic system. It handles alerts and the emotional reactions related to basic survival. The hypothalamus functions to release hormones from the pituitary gland. The hippocampus works with memory: It consolidates information from short- to long-term memory and enables navigation through spatial memory.