Brain

blue-brainThe brain is a dense collection of nerve tissue that acts in concert with the spine to control bodily functions.

What Is the Brain?

Some anatomists conceive of the brain as a network of related neurons and connections rather than as a single organ. Most animals have brains and central nervous systems, but the complexity of the brain varies greatly from animal to animal. People have large brains relative to most other animals, and their brains are enclosed in a hard skull that protects the brain from injury. The brain connects to the spinal cord, which controls many automatic functions. For example, reflexes are controlled by the spinal cord, which is why people tend to pull their hands away from a hot stove prior to feeling the heat or thinking that the stove is hot.

Regions of the Brain

The brain is divided into the right and left hemispheres. Each brain hemisphere controls the functions that occur on the opposite side of the body. The brain is also further divided into brain regions which tend to control specific functions. Many anatomists break the human brain into six distinct regions:

  1. the occipital lobe
  2. the frontal lobe
  3. the parietal lobe
  4. the temporal lobe
  5. the brain stem
  6. the cerebellum

Each brain region is further subdivided into smaller regions and brain components. The hippocampus, for example, is found in the temporal lobes of mammals and plays a role in memory.

The Brain and Mental Health

The brain gives rise to the mind, which means the brain plays a powerful role in thoughts and feelings. Brain injuries, changes in brain chemistry, and illnesses that affect the brain can alter cognition, emotions, and behavior. Much of the mental health field is heavily focused on brain function, and psychiatrists often prescribe psychoactive medications that change brain chemistry in an attempt to improve the symptoms of mental health conditions.

Reference:

  1. Audesirk, T., Audesirk, G., & Byers, B. E. (2008). Biology: Life on earth with physiology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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