A Guide to the Human Brain
The control center for our body, the place where functional operations and imagination meet, is the human brain. Scientists have been mystified over the complexity of this organ. We are only beginning to understand how the brain works. The brain consumes uses 20% of your body's energy, although is only about 2% of your body's weight and is about 1300-1400 cubic centimeters in volume. The human brain generates 25 watts of power when we are awake.
The brain is a gray and pink organ that weighs about 3 pounds and the size does not determine intelligence. While similar in makeup to the brains of animals, the human brain is three times larger than an animal comparative in size to a person. The brain is charged with monitoring the body from analyzing the constant incoming sensory data. The brain then issues commands that control breathing, heartbeat, movement, sleep, hunger, thirst, and reaction. Thinking, learning, and memory are in the neocortex. The cerebellum is responsible for the body's balance, posture, and the coordination of movement.
The frontal lobes are where reasoning and abstract thought take place. The brain has left and right hemispheres known as the cerebral cortex. The hemispheres are made up of four lobes each. These are known as: frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe.
You can see a chart with the functions categorized by each lobe here:
Although the brain is powerful this organ is delicate and is protected by meninges which are membranes that wrap the around the brain and spinal cord. The inside layers hold a shock-absorbing fluid. The brain controls the nervous system through communication. Billions of neurons communicate with each other by passing trillions of small electrical impulses or phasics between them. The tiny nerve fibers are covered by a substance known as myelin and are the white matter. The bodies of the nerve cells are not covered and make up the gray matter.
The scientific study of the nervous system is called neuroscience. Neuroscience includes molecular, developmental, structural, functional, evolutionary, and medical studies of the nervous system. As the brain is the controlling organ of this system, much of neuroscience focuses on the brain.
Neuroscience is divided into many categories of study including:
- Behavioral Neuroscience - Also called biological psychology, biopsychology, or psychobiology. This is the study of behavioral systems that are inherited, physiological, and developmental.
Behavioral Neuroscience publishes original papers on the biological bases of behavior. Research articles cover learning, memory, motivation, homeostasis, sleep and circadian rhythms, reproduction, cognition and more. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/bne/
The International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS.) Encourages research and education in the field of behavioral neuroscience. http://www.ibnshomepage.org/
- Cellular Neuroscience - The cellular level learning about neurons.
Frontiers in neuroscience: http://www.frontiersin.org/cellular_neuroscience
Institute of Neuroscience: http://uoneuro.uoregon.edu/ionmain/htdocs/grdbroch/cell.html
The Cellular Neuroscience Core
http://cbmi.catalyst.harvard.edu/cores/cat/core.html?core_id=48&category_id=17&navMode=cat Dates back to 1973 and the classic light and electron microscopic studies completed by Richard L. Sidman. The Core has provided insights on mental retardation by studying tissue, cellular and subcellular anatomy.
Now the Core analyzes the molecular architecture of the brain and diseases of the nervous system.
- Cognitive Neuroscience - study of mental processes.
The Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS.) Development and study of mind and brain research for the psychological, computational, and neuroscientific bases of cognition.
Penn's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience - Committed to studying the neural bases of human thought, cognitive neuroscience, including perception, attention, learning, memory, language, decision-making, emotion and development.
The Cognitive Neuroscience Arena gives professionals, researchers, instructors and students information on Cognitive Neuroscience. http://www.cognitiveneurosciencearena.com/
- Computational Neuroscience - brain functions for dealing with information storage and analyzing.
The Organization for Computational Neuroscience (OCNS) where experimental neuroscience meets theoretical, statistical and computer-simulation analyses. They strive to turn large collections of experimental data results into a principled understanding of the nervous system.
Extensive list of resource group links for Computational Neuroscience:
Computational Neuroscience in Europe
NeuroGEMS - software for neuroinformatics
German Neuroinformatics Node
- Developmental Neuroscience – The study of how the brain grows and develops.
- Molecular neuroscience - nervous system biology.
https://medschool.mc.vanderbilt.edu/cmn/ The Center for Molecular Neuroscience (CMN) at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
- Neuroimaging – methods of brain imaging.
- Neurolinguistics - the study of how the brain learns and uses language.
- Neurology and Psychiatry - study of nervous system disorders.
The International Observatory on Neuro-Information is a Neuroscience central knowledge source. International Observatory on Neuro-Information,
Web-based neuroscience resources: Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF)
Neurosciences on the Internet
Neuro Guide Chart of Cutaneous Fields of Peripheral Nerves
Scientists have determined that specific areas of the brain account for certain functions:
- Located at the back of the brain is the cerebellum which coordinates muscular movements and helps control our posture. The medulla and pons observe involuntary actions such as breathing.
- The thalamus accepts incoming sensory impulses and sends the messages to the appropriate centers. The hypothalamus regulates heartbeat, body temperature, and fluids.
- The largest section of the brain is the cerebrum which is at the top and in divided into the left and right hemispheres. This is where most of the master controls of the body are located. The left half controls the right side of the body and the right half controls the left side.
- The pituitary gland helps regulate4 growth, the basal ganglia assists with coordination and skills.
The brain can be affected and damaged by:
- alcohol use
- overexposure to aluminum compounds found in cookware, deodorants, antacids, and even toothpaste
- licit and illicit drugs
- continued lack of sleep
Educational topics such as nourishment, exercise, sleep, and neuroscience are covered on this site.
Interesting articles on the functions and outside influences of the brain
Our brains perform amazing feats and one of those is collecting, organizing, and storing information. This process is called memory. Memory is a complex and wonderfully dynamic process that uses neurotransmitters that transmit nerve impulses.
This site has information on the many functions of the brain including how memory works.
Understanding Information Processing of the Brain
The Secret Life of the Brain
The Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM.) This group was formed in 1995 for neuroimaging research. They hold conferences around the globe to provide an educational forum for Human Brain Mapping.
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