The different parts of the brain fulfill certain executive functions. Which?
It is very common to believe that human thoughts, feelings and emotions have their origin in two parts of the brain that work together: the cerebral hemispheres, two practically identical halves that are distinguished by the processes that take place in them.
This idea, although it is true in part, provides a very simple explanation about our operation, because within each hemisphere we can find an almost infinite number of organic structures in charge of carrying out different tasks and functions that influence our behavior.
In this article you can find a general explanation about some of the most important parts of our “thinking machine”: the lobes of the brain and their functions.
Brain Lobe Basics
Anatomically, it is very easy to recognize the division that exists between the two hemispheres of the brain, because seen from above a remarkable space keeps them separated. It is the interhemispheric fissure, which is something like a rectilinear crack that separates the upper and most superficial parts of the brain and defines where one cerebral hemisphere begins and where another ends.
However, beyond this obvious sign thanks to which we can get a very superficial idea about the anatomy of the brain, if what we want to examine is the structure of each of these elements, things get complicated.
Each hemisphere is covered by a layer called the cerebral cortex (which is the most visible part of the brain and appears to be full of wrinkles and furrows), and this cortex can be divided into different sections according to its different functions and locations. This classification into differentiated areas within each of the cerebral hemispheres shows us the existence of several lobes of the brain. Let’s see how they are.
Lobes of the brain and their functions
What we know as lobes of the brain consists of a classification by plots of the cerebral cortex that allows mapping the main areas of nerve activity. These are not radically separate areas from each other, but they are relatively easy to distinguish one from the other if we look at the folds and different fissures of the brain.
These plots are the lobes of the brain, and below you can read their most basic aspects, taking into account that each cerebral hemisphere has the same number, types and distribution of lobes.
1. Frontal lobe
Marked in blue in the image.
In humans, it is the largest of the lobes of the brain. It is characterized by its role in the processing of high-level cognitive functions such as planning, coordination, execution and control of behavior. By extension, it also enables goal setting, anticipation, articulation of language, and regulation of emotions.
In addition, the frontal lobe is born the ability to take others into account (since it counteracts the influence of impulses to satisfy our desires immediately, in favor of long-term goals) and establish theory of mind, which is our own. ability to infer things about the mental state of others. For example, being aware that we know something that another person does not know is possible thanks to the theory of mind.
In short, this is one of the brain lobes with a more prominent role in the functions that we would relate more directly to intelligence, planning and coordination of complex voluntary movement sequences. This part of the cortex is typical of vertebrate animals and is especially large in mammals since this evolutionary group contains the most intelligent species on the planet.
- More on this lobe in the following post: “What is the frontal lobe and how does it work?”
2. Parietal lobe
Marked in yellow in the image.
It is located between the frontal and occipital lobes, and is mainly responsible for processing sensory information that comes from all parts of the body, such as touch, the sensation of temperature, pain and pressure, and is able to relate this information to the number recognition. It also makes movement control possible thanks to its proximity to the planning centers of the frontal lobe.
In addition, it receives visual information from the occipital lobe and works to create associations between this type of data and other inputs from other areas.
3. Occipital lobe
Marked in pink in the image. In humans, it is the smallest of the four main lobes of the brain and is located in the posterior area of the skull, near the nape of the neck.
It is the first area of the neocortex to which visual information reaches . Therefore, it has a crucial role in the recognition of objects whose light is projected on the retina, although by itself it does not have the ability to create coherent images. These images are created from the processing of these data in areas of the brain called visual association areas.
The occipital lobe sends information about vision to other lobes of the brain through two different communication channels.
The first of them, which goes to the frontal area of the brain through the ventral area (that is, the one furthest from the upper area of the head), processes information about the “what” of what is seen, that is , the content of the vision.
The second channel, which goes to the front through the dorsal area (near the crown), processes the “how” and “where” of what is seen, that is, aspects of movement and location in a broader context.
4. Temporal lobe
Marked in green in the image.
The temporal lobes of each hemisphere are located on the sides of the brain, arranged horizontally and attached to the temples.
They receive information from many other areas and lobes of the brain and their functions have to do with memory and pattern recognition in data from the senses. Therefore, it plays a role in the recognition of faces and voices, but also in the memory of words.
The insula is a part of the cortex that is hidden between the rest of the lobes of the brain and, to see it, it is necessary to separate the temporal and parietal lobes from each other. That is why it is often not considered as one more lobe.
It is attached to structures responsible for making the appearance of emotions possible, as it is closely connected to many areas of the limbic system, and is probably responsible for mediating between these and the cognitive processes that take place in the rest of the lobes of the brain.
- Colledge, Nicki R .; Walker, Brian R .; Ralston, Stuart H .; Ralston, eds. (2010). Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine (21st ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7020-3085-7.
- Stuss, DT & Knight, RT (2013), Principles of Frontal Lobe Function. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Hall, John (2011). Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology (12th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier. ISBN 978-1-4160-4574-8.
- Netter, F. (2014). Atlas of Human Anatomy Including Student Consult Interactive Ancillaries and Guides (6th ed.). Philadelphia, Penn .: WB Saunders Co.
- Van Essen, DC (January 23, 1997). “A tension-based theory of morphogenesis and compact wiring in the central nervous system”. Nature.