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Anatomy and Physiology of the Brain

The major regions of the brain are the brainstem, diencephalon, the cerebrum and the cerebellum. Brainstem The brainstem connects the spinal cord to the remainder of the brain. It consists of medulla oblongata, pons and midbrain and consist of nuclei involved in control of heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Damage to small areas of brainstem causes death whereas damage to relatively large areas of cerebrum or cerebellum often do not cause death. Medulla Oblongata The most inferior portion of the brainstem and is continuous to spinal cord. The medulla oblongata contains discrete nuclei with specific functions such as regulation of heart rate and blood vessel diameter, breathing, swallowing, vomiting, coughing, sneezing, balance and coordination. On the anterior surface, two prominent enlargements called pyramids extend to the length of the medulla oblongata. It consist of descending nerve tracts, which transmit action potentials from the brain to motor neurons of the spinal cords and involved in conscious control of skeletal muscle. Pons Immediately superior to the medulla oblongata. It consists of ascending and descending nerve tracts as well as several nuclei. Some of the nuclei in the pons relay information between cerebrum and cerebellum. It also control functions such as chewing and salivation. Midbrain Smallest region of the brainstem. The dorsal part of the midbrain consist of four mounds called colliculi. The two inferior colliculi are major relay centers for the auditory pathways in the CNS. The two superior colliculi involves in visual reflexes.

Cerebellum It measn little brain. Cerebellum is attached to the brainstem by several connection called cerebellar peduncles. The cerebellum involved in balance, maintenance of muscle tone, and coordination of fine motor movements. The cerebellum processes impulses received from the cerebral motor cortex, various brain stem nuclei and sensory receptors in order to appropriately control skeletal muscle contraction, thus giving smooth, coordinated movements.

Diencephalon The diencephalon is located centrally within the forebrain. It consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus and epithalamus The thalamus acts as a grouping and relay station for sensory inputs ascending to the sensory cortex and association areas. It also mediates motor activities, cortical arousal and memories. It also register unlocalized, uncomfortable perception of pain. The hypothalamus, by controlling the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system, is responsible for maintaining the bodys homeostatic balance. Moreover it forms a part of the limbic system, the emotional brain. The epithalamus consists of the pineal gland( endocrine gland that may influence onset of puberty) and the CSF producing choroid plexus.Involved in the emotional and visceral response to odors.

Cerebrum The largest part of the brain. It is divided into left and right hemisphere. The most conspicuous features of the surface of each hemisphere are numerous folds called gyri which greatly increase surface area of the cortex and the intervening grooves called sulci. Each hemisphere is divided into lobes named after the skull bones overlying them. The frontal lobe is important in the control of coluntary motor functions, aggression, mood, olfactory reception. The parietal lobe is the principal center for the reception and conscious perception of the most information, such as touch, pain temperature, balance and taste. The occipital lobe functions in the reception and perception of visual input. Temporal lobe is involved in olfactory and auditory sensations and plays important role in memory.