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How Does Your Brain Work? Q &A About Brain Anatomy and More

Your brain is a complex place. With many billions of neurons firing in order to produce thoughts, control voluntary and involuntary bodily functions, and create memories — there’s a lot going on inside the organ inside your skull. Have you ever wondered exactly how the different parts of your brain work? Thought about trying to change your brain? Learned all about the cerebellum in anatomy and physiology class but forgot what it does?

You’re covered here — we’ve got the answers to all of your questions about the human brain. And probably a few answers to questions you haven’t even thought of yet.

This guide includes all of the most frequently asked questions about the brain. From parts of the brain, to how it works, and thoughts on neuroplasticity.

What Are The Different Parts Of The Brain?

The human brain is made up of three components: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, the cerebellum is a smaller structure underneath the cerebrum, and the brain stem is what connects your brain to your spinal cord. 

From there each part of the brain is broken down further. Keep reading to find out more.  

What Is The Function Of The Cerebrum?

The cerebrum’s many functions include thinking, reasoning and judgment, learning, and solving problems. The cerebrum is also involved in sensory processing — from vision to hearing and touch. Other parts of the cerebrum help to control body temperature and body movements.[1]https://www.statpearls.com/ArticleLibrary/viewarticle/18527  

What Do Each Of The Lobes Of The Brain Do?

The cerebrum is made up of four distinct parts, called lobes. There’s some overlap in responsibilities of each lobe, but here’s the general rundown: [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549789/  

  • Frontal Lobe. The frontal lobe governs social skills, emotions, and memory. 
  • Parietal Lobe. The parietal lobe governs your senses. 
  • Occipital Lobe. The occipital lobe mostly governs vision. 
  • Temporal Lobe. The temporal lobe governs memory and processes auditory input.

What Does The Cerebral Cortex Do?

The cerebral cortex covers the cerebrum with intricate folds. It is also a crucial part of the most complex brain functions, like thinking and talking. It is comprised of gray matter. Although it is only a few millimeters thick, the cerebral cortex makes up about 50% of the brain’s mass.[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538496/ 

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What Does The Cerebellum Do?

The cerebellum coordinates movement and helps with balance and posture. It also plays a role in emotions, behavior in social situations, and thinking. The cerebellum is located at the back of the brain, under the cerebrum. It is about the size of your fist.[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538167/ 

What Is The Function Of The Brain Stem?

The brain stem connects the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. It also plays a role in breathing, swallowing, coughing, sneezing, heart rate, digestion, facial expressions, blinking, vision focus, and coordination. The brain stem is made up of three parts: the pons, the midbrain, and the medulla.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544297/

What Does The Hippocampus Control?

The hippocampus plays a central role in memory processing, consolidating memories, and learning. The hippocampus is located in the temporal lobe and is also thought to play a role in processing smells as well as imagination and morals. It also helps in the process of spatial navigation.[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548359/  

How The Brain Works

The brain is comprised of billions of nerve cells that work together in harmony to control just about everything your body does and your mind thinks and feels. It’s a rather remarkable and awe-inspiring phenomenon that’s often likened to a computer…even though that’s a simplistic comparison to make. The brain is much more nuanced than a computer.

How Does Your Brain Work?

One hundred billion neurons receive and transmit signals that create results in your body and mind. Neurons create neural pathways that communicate with each other and parts of your body to produce various outcomes. The brain also uses the nervous system and hormones to communicate with the rest of your body.[7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279302/   

What Role Does The Brain Play In Vision?

The eyes may see, but the occipital lobe of the brain processes the information that your retinas take in. The brain melds the images that each eye sees individually into one image that you can comprehend. The brain also helps your eyes to focus properly.[8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482504/ 

How Does The Brain Control Our Body Functions?

The brain accesses the central nervous system that’s located throughout the body to help control bodily functions. The brain stem is connected to the spinal cord which is connected to the rest of the nervous system. This pathway acts as a conduit, sending messages back and forth from body to brain.[9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542179/

How Does The Brain Maintain Homeostasis?

The brain helps maintain homeostasis using chemical messengers called hormones to communicate with the body. The hypothalamus receives feedback from your environment and the rest of your body and then determines which hormones to send traveling through the bloodstream. The hormones send signals directing other body parts to act on the hypothalamus’ orders.[10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535380/ 

How Does The Brain Focus?

Scientists believe that the cholinergic system in the brain helps to identify what is most important and worthy of focusing on. The cholinergic system uses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to communicate with neurons and tell the brain to pay attention to something specific.[11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30594427/ 

Changing Your Brain + Neuroplasticity

Scientists used to think that once you reached adulthood that your brain was pretty much fixed. Now, we know that the brain can learn and grow and change all throughout life. Which means with the right effort and support, you can change your brain. This is called neuroplasticity.

How Is Your Brain Like A Muscle?

Your brain is like a muscle in the sense that the more you use it and exercise it, the more likely it is to improve. This helps visualize the concept of neuroplasticity. Your brain cannot physically increase in size the way your bicep can, but it is a helpful analogy.[12]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236043229_Intensive_Reasoning_Training_Alters_Patterns_of_Brain_Connectivity_at_Rest

How Does The Brain Grow With Learning?

When you learn something new, new connections are forged between the neurons in your brain. Repeatedly practicing or studying this new information makes the pathways stronger. From there, your skill improves. This is a process that you can repeat time and again to continue growing your brain.[13]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557811/

How Does Information Reach The Brain?

There are neurons located all throughout your body. These neurons receive information and then transmit that information to the brain. Your brain is constantly receiving transmissions from your skin, eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. The brain then processes the information it gets and decides whether to respond.[14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20367/

How To Build New Neural Pathways?

To build new neural pathways to change and rewire your brain, you have to learn new information or skills. Then, practice those new skills you’ve learned to improve the strength of the neural pathway you’ve created. Getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy diet can help encourage strengthening of new neural pathways too.[15]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29080018/  

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