The first stop on the virtual brain tour takes a look at the three main parts of the brain, the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum and the brain stem. It also explores the four brain lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe and the occipital lobe.
The first part of the brain to evolve some 500 million years ago was the brain stem. It is also known as the reptilian brain or lower brain. Certain ‘hardwired’ body functions e.g., breathing and blood pressure, as well as some basic human instincts like danger are controlled by the lower brain.
The cerebellum evolved about 400 million years ago and is also known as the hind brain.
The limbic brain (we will explore this brain in detail later) was the third part of the brain to evolve between 300 and 200 million years ago and is sometimes called the mid brain. On this tour, we will refer to it as ‘downstairs’. It is the most chemically active brain and is where our emotions are located.
The final part of the brain to evolve was the cerebrum (cerebral cortex), also called the upper brain. On this tour, we will refer to it as ‘upstairs’. The cortex evolved about 200 million years ago. It is responsible for the cognitive skills of logic, creativity, intuition and decision.
Each half of the cerebrum is split into four lobes. Each lobe is responsible for performing it’s own specific functions.
The parietal lobe deals mainly with functions connected with movement, orientation, calculation and certain types of recognition.
The occipital lobe is mainly made up of visual processing areas.
The cerebellum is also known as the little brain or hind brain and is attached to the back of your brain stem. Its main function is to control your body position, poise and balance. It also stores memories for basic learned responses. It sends vital information to the brain via the brain stem.
The frontal lobes deal with the most integrated brain functions i.e., thinking, conceptualising and planning. They also play a major part in the conscious appreciation of emotion.
The temporal lobes deal with sound, speech comprehension, usually the left temporal lobe, and some aspects of memory.
The brain stem is also known as the reptilian brain. It is located deep down in the brain and extends up from your spinal cord. It is primarily responsible for basic life support and controls your breathing and heart rate, your temperature and your digestion process. It is also responsible for keeping you alert of important information from your senses.