15 Areas of the Brain and Their Functions

15 Areas of the Brain and Their Functions

Discover and dive into the different areas of the brain.

Brains are extraordinarily complicated organs. Even though the average adult human brain weighs about 2.7 lbs and is only about the size of two clenched fists, it contains about 171 billion cells. All of these cells are arranged in a complex topography of hills, valleys, and distinct layers, all contributing to the many remarkable brain functions in their own way.

To be able to describe and discuss the way these cells work together to form a functioning whole, it is important to be able to describe where they are and to categorize the roles they play. Let’s talk about some of the different brain areas and what they do.

What Are Areas of The Brain?

There are many different levels of organization in the brain. For example, the brain can be first divided into three major parts: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. Each of these three parts can be further divided into several smaller regions, each with its own specific function.

Anatomical regions of the brain are defined based on their location and structure. The boundaries between different regions are typically defined by physical landmarks, such as fissures, sulci, and gyri (the hills and valleys you see when you look at a typical human brain), as well as by the location of specific nuclei and fiber tracts.

Areas of the Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain and is divided into four main lobes: the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe. Each lobe is associated with different functions and contains specialized areas that process specific types of information.

Frontal lobe

The frontal lobe is located at the front of the brain and is involved in higher cognitive functions, such as reasoning, planning, decision-making, and voluntary movement. It includes the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive functions, and the motor cortex, which controls voluntary movement.

Parietal lobe

The parietal lobe is located at the top and back of the brain and is involved in processing sensory information, such as touch, temperature, and pain. It includes the somatosensory cortex, which processes tactile and proprioceptive information, and the association cortex, which integrates information from multiple sensory modalities.

Temporal lobe

The temporal lobe is located on the sides of the brain and is involved in processing auditory information, as well as some aspects of visual perception and memory. It includes the primary auditory cortex, which processes sound, and the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation and retrieval of memories.

Occipital lobe

The occipital lobe is located at the back of the brain and is primarily involved in processing visual information. It includes the primary visual cortex, which processes basic visual features such as color, orientation, and motion, and the association cortex, which integrates visual information with other sensory modalities and higher cognitive functions.

“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.”
― Jeffrey Eugenides

Areas of the Brain Stem

The brain stem is part of the brain that connects the spinal cord to the rest of the brain. It’s divided into several different regions including:

Medulla oblongata

This is the lowermost part of the brain stem, located just above the spinal cord. It’s responsible for regulating some of the most vital bodily functions, such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.

Pons

The pons is located above the medulla and helps to relay information between different regions of the brain. It’s also involved in controlling certain automatic functions, such as breathing and sleeping.

Midbrain

The midbrain connects the rest of the spinal cord with the cerebrum and the cerebellum. It includes important nuclei, or clusters of cell bodies, such as the substantia nigra, the red nucleus, and the dorsal raphae nucleus. These regions are involved in movement and motivation.

Areas of The Brain: Memory

Memory is a complex process that involves several different regions of the brain working together. There is still much to be learned about how the brain stores information and what areas are involved, but some of the key brain areas recognized so far include (Raslau et al., 2015):

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is a seahorse-shaped structure located in the temporal lobe of the brain, and it is essential for the formation and retrieval of new memories. Damage to the hippocampus can result in severe memory impairments, such as the inability to form new memories or recall old ones.

Amygdala

The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure located in the temporal lobe. It’s involved in the processing of emotions, such as fear, and the consolidation of emotional memories.

Prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex is located at the front of the brain and is involved in many higher cognitive functions, including working memory, attention, and executive control. It plays an important role in organizing and retrieving memories and integrating them into coherent narratives.

Temporal lobe

The temporal lobe is important for memory, as it contains several structures involved in memory processing, including the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the entorhinal cortex. This region is also involved in language processing, which is critical for the formation and retrieval of verbal memories.

Basal ganglia

The basal ganglia are a group of structures located deep within the brain. They are involved in the control of movement as well as certain aspects of learning and memory. They are particularly important for procedural or motor memory, which involves the learning and recall of motor skills and habits.

Areas of The Brain: Emotions

Emotions and memory are closely linked, so these two functions recruit some of the same areas such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Other regions involved in the processing of emotions include:

Insula

The insula is a small region of the brain located deep within the cerebral cortex, and it is involved in the processing of interoceptive information, such as hunger, thirst, and pain. It is also involved in the subjective experience of emotions, such as disgust and empathy.

Anterior cingulate cortex

The anterior cingulate cortex is located in the medial part of the brain, and it is involved in a wide range of cognitive and emotional functions, including pain perception, reward processing, and conflict monitoring. It is also important for regulating emotional responses and for social cognition.

Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is a small structure located below the thalamus and is involved in the regulation of many autonomic functions, such as hunger, thirst, and body temperature. It is also involved in the regulation of emotional responses, particularly those related to stress and aggression.

In Sum

Every area of the brain has something unique to offer and they all work together to bring about all of the cognitive and motor functions that we know and love.

References

● Raslau, F. D., Mark, I. T., Klein, A. P., Ulmer, J. L., Mathews, V., & Mark, L. P. (2015). Memory part 2: the role of the medial temporal lobe. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 36(5), 846-849