Understanding Our Brain Anatomy
In our last article, we talked about how the brain was divided into three distinct sections. The largest section and the one that contains the elements most of us are familiar with is the forebrain. This is where our cerebrum is located, which is divided into two hemispheres, separated by a thick bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Through these nerve fibers, each hemisphere can communicate to the other and is made up of white matter.
The outer layer of the cerebrum is our cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is made up of sulci and gyri, which is what gives our outer brain the wavy grooves we visually associate with the brain. It’s actually these folds that allow more surface area to fit without our skulls. Unfolded our brain would be roughly three feet long.
There are five major sections of the cerebrum. The frontal lobes, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, occipital lobes, and the insula. The largest lobes are the frontal lobes. They’re located at the front of the brain and control high-level behaviors. This includes voluntary motor skills, our attention span, problem-solving, planning, and decision making. Most of our dopamine neurons are located in the frontal lobe as well. These pathways control our reward centers, short-term memory task completion, motivation, emotional regulation, and impulse control.
Directly behind the frontal lobes are the parietal lobes. They take in sensory information from other areas of the brain and all around the body, such as taste, sight, and smell, and interpret it. It’s thanks to this processing and interpretation of sensory information that we also have spatial awareness. Our ability to process language, allowing us to read and write.
Beneath both the frontal and parietal lobes are the temporal lobes. Temporal refers to our temples, which helps us visually identify where they’re located. This is where visual memory, verbal comprehension, and emotional interpretation are processed. Without these processes we would lose object recognition, being able to understand language, identify how we feel, or create new memories. This is where structures such as the hippocampus are located, which is imperative for long-term memory.
At the back of our brain are the occipital lobes. This area processes visual information and is where most of the visual cortex is located. It’s thanks to this area that we’re able to read and interpret the words. Beyond being able to process visual information, it also allows us to assign meaning to what we see and remember those visual perceptions.
Between the frontal and parietal lobes and separating them from the temporal lobes is a set of fissures known as the insula. These lobes are recent discoveries, in part because they are located deeper in the brain. They’re responsible for our self-awareness. This means awareness of our body, our thoughts, and our emotions. They take our awareness of all of these things and create our perception of each moment.
Our brain is a complex organ made up of multiple layers and several different parts. They work together to process information taken in around us. Many of these processes are involuntary and control physiological functions to keep us alive. But the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum, is where our thoughts, memories, emotions take place. It’s how we are aware of the present moment and can interpret language in all forms.