Structural Components: Exploring the Anatomy of the Brain

Structural Components: Exploring the Anatomy of the Brain

For most of human history, we’ve had very little idea of what the brain actually does. The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was clear in his view that ‘…from the brain and from the brain only arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, grieves and tears.’ Aristotle, however, thought the brain was a lesser organ whose job was simply to keep the all-important heart from overheating! 

Over the following centuries, early scientists dissected both animal and human brains to learn more about brain anatomy. Still, in 1669, Danish anatomist Nicolaus Steno regretted that ‘The brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to us.’

The brain, after all, is not easy to study without modern methods. These days, we have high-tech scans like functional MRIs that show us the inner workings of the brain. We also have a large body of behavioural studies and case histories of brain-injured patients, which have helped us understand the function of different areas of the brain. 

The three key areas of the brain are: 

  • Brainstem
  • Cerebrum
  • Cerebellum.

Let’s take a look. 



Brainstem – sustainer of life

The brainstem sits low at the back of your brain and, as its name suggests, looks a little like the stem of a flower. 

The brainstem:

  • Forms part of your central nervous system
  • Contains 10 of your 12 cranial nerves (nerves that start in your brain), controlling facial movements, facial sensations and taste
  • Sends messages between your brain and body 
  • Regulates basic functions like breathing, heart rate, balance, blood pressure and swallowing. 

The brainstem can be injured by blocked blood flow (due to a heart attack, blood clot or stroke), tumours, inflammation or an accident. 

Because it controls essential life functions like breathing and heartbeat, you can’t live without a functioning brainstem – this is termed brain death.  

Cerebrum – thinking hub

The cerebrum is the largest region of your brain, filling up most of your skull. It’s also the bit that looks most ‘brainy’ – like a wet, wrinkly walnut divided into two hemispheres (sides) by a deep groove. 

Your cerebrum handles your conscious thoughts and actions, enabling you to interact with the people and world around you. Overall, your cerebrum manages your: 

  • Senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch
  • Language skills, including your ability to read, write and speak
  • Short-term memory
  • Behaviour and personality –the frontal lobe, in particular, often steps in to stop you from doing or saying something you’ll regret later
  • Movements – by signalling your muscles to move
  • Learning, logic and reasoning – so that you can solve a tricky problem or master a new skill.  

While certain cerebrum areas manage particular functions, they don’t work in isolation. Each area of your brain contributes important information that helps you decide how to manage a particular situation. 

As the Cleveland Clinic explains, if you’ve seen an alligator, you have to process an enormous amount of information to guide your actions, including: 

  • Sight: What does the creature look like? How far away is it? How fast is it moving? 
  • Sound: What noises is it making? 
  • Memory: You’ve been taught that alligators are dangerous, but you’ve never seen one before. You have seen a crocodile though, and draw on that information to help you here.
  • Language: You probably scream out ‘Alligator!’ to your companions.
  • Decision and action: You decide you’re in danger and should get to somewhere safer
  • Movement: Your brain tells your leg muscles to move – fast! 

As you can see, it’s not only the health of each part of the brain that matters but also the strength of the connections between different areas. 

Cerebellum – master of coordination

The cerebellum accounts for only about 10% of your brain but contains 50-80% of your brain’s nerve cells. 

Your cerebellum helps to coordinate your balance and posture and the precise movements required for activities like writing, riding a bike or speaking. It may also play a role in cognitive functions like:

  • Language
  • Attention
  • Emotional processing
  • Responses to fear, pleasure or rewards. 

Research is ongoing, but it seems cerebellar dysfunction may play a role in conditions such as: 

How can we help?

At Neurofit Brain Centre, we believe brain activity makes an active difference. 

Our toolkit includes many evidence-based therapies designed to stimulate the chosen area of the brain. Often, we’ll use several of these at once (co-activation), giving your brain the maximum opportunity to form new neural pathways and strengthen itself. That can help to relieve symptoms associated with many common conditions such as autism and ADHD, dyslexia, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. 

Please book an assessment today. 


All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Neurofit Brain Centre can consult with you to confirm if a particular treatment approach is right for you.