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Brain Basics

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The scarecrow needed it, Einstein had an excellent one, and it can store a whole lot of information. What is it you say? Why, the brain of course.

The brain is the control center of the body. Think of a telephone operator who answers incoming calls and directs them to where they need to go. Similarly, your brain acts as an operator by sending messages from all over the body to their proper destination.

The brain is one of the largest and most important organs of the human body. Weighing in at about three pounds, this organ has a wide range of responsibilities. From coordinating our movement to managing our emotions, the brain does it all.

The brain is made up of three main parts: the forebrain, the brainstem, and the hindbrain.

Forebrain

The forebrain is the most complex of the three parts. It gives us the ability to "feel," learn, and remember. It consists of two parts: the telencephalon (contains the cerebral cortex and corpus callosum) and the diencephalon (contains the thalamus and hypothalamus).

The cerebral cortex allows us to understand the mounds of information we receive from all around us. The left and right regions of the cerebral cortex are separated by a thick band of tissue called the corpus callosum. The thalamus acts as a telephone line of sorts, allowing information to get through to the cerebral cortex. The hypothalamus is important for regulating hormones, hunger, thirst, and arousal.

Brainstem

The brainstem consists of the midbrain and the hindbrain. Just as the name suggests, the brainstem resembles the stem of a branch. The midbrain is the upper part of the branch that is connected to the forebrain. This region of the brain sends and receives information. Data from our senses, such as the eyes and ears, are sent to this area and then directed to the forebrain.

Hindbrain

The brainstem consists of the hindbrain makes up the lower portion of the brainstem and consists of three units. The medulla oblongata controls involuntary functions such as digestion and breathing. The second unit of the hindbrain, the pons, also assists in controlling these functions. The third unit, the cerebellum, is responsible for the coordination of movement. Those of you who are blessed with great hand-eye coordination have your cerebellum to thank.

Brain Disorders

As you can imagine, all of us desire a brain that is healthy and functions properly. Unfortunately, there are some who suffer from neurological disorders of the brain. A few of these disorders include: Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease.

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