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Copyright © 1997, Jay Ligda.  All rights reserved.  Published by Humans in the Universe and Jay Ligda.

The Brain

      The brain is typically understood in three sections, the hindbrain, the midbrain, and the forebrain.  The hindbrain includes the brain stem, the thalmus, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the cerebellum.  The midbrain includes, the limbic system, and the hippocampus.  The forebrain includes, the cerebrum and the cortex.  The following describes some of the functions of different parts of the brain.

      In the hindbrain, all input from the sensory organs pass through the thalamus before proceeding to other areas of the brain for processing.  The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing hormones into the endocrine system.  It is the primary link between the nervous and endocrine system.  The hypothalamus controls the activity of the pituitary gland and "acts as an all-powerful liaison between the brain and body" (Hooper and Teresi, 1992, p. 35).  Hormones and various other chemical messengers controlled by the hypothalamus are often considered to be the source of feelings and emotions (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).  Besides controlling the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus has other functions, "it regulates the 'internal milieu,' blood pressure, body temperature and contains appetite control centers.  Damage to one part of the hypothalamus will cause animals to stop eating" (Hooper and Teresi, 1992, p 34).  The hypothalamus regulates the activity between the parasympathetic and the sympathetic branches of the nervous system.  The hypothalamus will be important for the discussion on stress.

      The limbic system of the midbrain is where emotions are housed: "When stimulated with a mild electrical current, specific limbic sites triggered sudden rage, joy, or fear" (Hooper and Teresi, 1992, p. 36).  The hippocampus (not hypothalamus mentioned above) is responsible for consolidating and storing memories in the cerebrum.

      The cerebrum and cortex of the forebrain is where conscious thought processes, sensations, intellectual functions, memory storage and retrieval, and complex motor patterns originate (Martini, 1992).  The cerebrum is divided into two large hemispheres that "speak" to each other through a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus collosum.  The cortex houses 70% of the total neurons in the nervous system.  Neurons deliver messages to each other and other parts of the body through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

by Jay Ligda

(This work is a all or part of an original work first published/written for John. F. Kennedy University:  Final Integrative Project., Mar1996.)


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References

  • Kabat-Zinn, J.  (1990).  Full Catastrophe Living:  Using the Wisdom of the Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.  New York, NY:  Dell.
  • Hooper, J. & Teresi, D.  (1992).  The Three-Pound Universe.  Los Angelas, CA;  Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee.
  • Martini, F. (1992).  The Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology. 2nd ed.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall.

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