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What are the Parts of the Brain?

By Nicole Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The various parts of the brain work together to conduct everyday thought processes and necessary functions such as breathing. Essentially, the brain is made up of the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain. Each part consists of different structures that allow them to conduct different tasks and handle varying responsibilities.

Made up of the cerebrum and the structures within the brain referred to as the inner brain, the forebrain is the largest part of the brain. Connected by bundles of nerves, the cerebrum is made up of two hemispheres, referred to as the right hemisphere and left hemisphere. Activities controlled by the left hemisphere include movements by the right side of the body and the ability to form thoughts. The right side of the brain controls movements on the left side of the body and allows you to think abstractly.

Within each hemisphere of the cerebrum are lobes with specialized functions. Frontal lobes handle planning and scheduling tasks. Parietal lobes allow you to experience taste, touch and temperature. Responsible for processing images and storing them in memory are the occipital lobes. Finally, your temporal lobes allow you to process music and form memories related to musical activities.

Housed in the inner brain, the hypothalamus, thalamus, hippocampus and basal ganglia represent another segment of the forebrain. These organs and nerve cells work together to transfer signals between the brain and the spinal cord. The inner brain is responsible for emotions, perceptions and movements.

Resting at the top of the brainstem is the second part of the brain. The midbrain works to control reflexes and voluntary movements. For example, controlling eye movement is an activity activated by the midbrain.

Sitting at the base of the neck, the hindbrain includes the brain stem, the upper portion of the spinal cord and the cerebellum. Vital to existence, the hindbrain is responsible for breathing and heart rate. The cerebellum specifically controls and helps coordinate movements related to things such as throwing a baseball or playing a musical instrument.

Another one of the essential parts of the brain is the cerebral cortex. It's a thin tissue encasing the various components of the brain. The cerebral cortex holds the responsibility for a large portion of informational processing that occurs in the brain. Within the brain and nervous system, brain cells send messages between areas of the brain and help coordinate activity.

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Discussion Comments

By SkyWhisperer — On Dec 22, 2011

@Mammmood - I’m glad that there are some parts of the human brain that perform functions without needing my participation.

I shudder to think where we would all be if we had to “think” about breathing or making our hearts beat. Well, I suppose we would be dead, obviously.

But it does raise an interesting observation about what it means when doctors say that someone is “brain dead.” Since the brain controls the heartbeat, then to be brain dead is to be truly gone in that sense.

If your brain is simply in a comatose state and your heart is beating then there is hope I think. This is what makes decisions about end of life care and life support so difficult. I’ve heard of people coming out of comas after years of being on life support.

By Mammmood — On Dec 22, 2011

@Charred - Personally, I do think there is some merit to the right brain and left brain dichotomy. It’s not that some of us have more of a right brain or more of a left brain. We are on a level playing field in that sense.

But remember that the brain is a muscle. You can choose to exercise parts of that muscle (right or left brain) more than the other part, and that’s what makes you inclined to be one way or another. You can certainly change – I agree with that – but most people don’t.

By Charred — On Dec 21, 2011

@everetra - Yeah, I think nothing is really hardwired in that sense. What makes one person a mathematician and another person a writer is really personal interest and personality really.

I can go really deep into math if I want, I suppose, but I lose interest and motivation. It’s not what I want to do. Does that mean I am more “right brained”? I don’t think so. It just means that I prefer to invest my time and talents into something else.

I am of the belief that there is nothing that you can’t learn – and even master – so long as you are motivated.

By everetra — On Dec 20, 2011

Since we all have a “right brain” and a “left brain,” what does it really mean that some people are more right brain or left brain in their thinking?

Are these really valid distinctions? We both have the capability to think abstractly, logically and creatively. Are people really hardwired into certain types of professions or interests or are these things just interests that they have developed over time?

I personally believe that we can choose what we want to be, artist or scientist. I think it’s your desires that determine the direction of your life not the different parts of the brain and what they do. We all have the same parts of the brain and can use those parts as we see fit.

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