Topic: Brain Health & Brain Anatomy
brain, brain anatomy, cerebrum, cerebellum, structure, function, brain stem, diencephalon
Using diagrams of the brain, students will be able to:
• Observe the basic anatomy of the brain and its components
• Identify the parts of the brain
• Identify major lobes of the cerebral cortex
• Observe a portion of the spine, spinal cord, and spinal nerves
• Relate structure to function in the brain
In this introductory activity, students will read a description of the parts
of the human brain and begin to associate structure with function. It is
important to orient students to the layout of the brain, which will further
assist them in becoming familiar with structures and functions of the
brain. Students will color-code a brain diagram and complete a notetaking
activity intended to introduce each part of the brain and define its
area and basic function. After students have read the description of the
parts of the human brain, you may opt to show them a PowerPoint slideshow (included at the bottom of this page). The fact that each part of the brain is complex and carries out many functions is a concept meant to
begin with this lesson but ultimately understood through the combination
of lessons presented in this unit.
Students will pre-read the student text A Piece of Your Mind: Brain
Anatomy. Therefore it is suggested that the teacher make a class set of
this text. Teachers can use the PowerPoint to allow students to complete A Piece of Your Mind: Brain Anatomy . Each student will need a copy of the student processing out pages. A good way for the teacher to demonstrate cross-sections of the cerebrum would be to take an oblong fruit, such as an apple, and cut it lengthwise. This would show the students that the brain is divided into two hemispheres; each side is similar.
The brain is the center for all thought processes and nearly all regulatory
function in the human body. The brain directly or indirectly controls
every aspect of the living body such as voluntary and involuntary
motor control, enzyme and hormone production, and immune system
responses. Much of what we know today about the function of the brain
comes from the imaging technologies that use scanning instruments to
look at brain structure and function.
THE BRAIN: A Brief Overview
The brain may be divided into many parts, see Figure 1 Brain Anatomy;
therefore a multitude of anatomy textbooks subdivide the brain into varying levels of complexity depending on the target audience of the book.
For the purpose of this unit, four (4) parts will be defined. They are the
Cerebrum, Diencephalon, Cerebellum, and Brain Stem. It is important for students to remember that each part of the brain is responsible for controlling a specific combination of activities within the body. For example, the cerebrum controls processes that require conscious thought, sensation, and voluntary movement. At the same time it is important for students to keep in mind that while the cerebrum is performing functions, it is also communicating and working with other areas of the brain such as the cerebellum. While this communication is occurs, the cerebellum regulates balance and coordination. Many areas of the brain work together and/or independently to maintain body functions. This occurs through a complex network of interconnecting neural pathways, and is the focus of current research in brain mapping.
The largest area of our brain, the cerebrum accounts for approximately
two-thirds of the total volume of brain. If it were possible to unfold the
cerebrum, it would encompass an area nearly half a square meter in size.
The external morphology (form and structure) of the Cerebrum has a
convoluted surface, allowing for an increased surface area to volume
ratio, thus allowing more neurons in a tighter space, resulting in expanded
functioning of the complex neural pathways. The outermost layer of
Cerebrum is called the Cerebral Cortex, and is only 1/4 inch thick.
High level human functions such as thought, memory, emotions, personality, voluntary movement and reasoning are controlled and regulated here. The Cerebrum is divided into two halves, called hemispheres. The hemispheres are separated by a deep split, however, the two halves communicate with each other and the rest of the brain through a network of connecting nerve tissue. Each hemisphere is divided into 5 lobes:
1. Frontal Lobe: responsible for thinking and creativity. The motor area is
located within the frontal lobe.
2. Parietal Lobe: regulates memory of objects and their uses, and
directions. Also located in this lobe is the Sensory Area, which receives
many of the sensory messages such as touch, pain and temperature
from the rest of the body and routes them to the correct area of
3. Temporal Lobe: regulates hearing, speech, and memory.
4. Occipital Lobe: nerve impulses from the eyes are received, where the
brain translates them into images.
5. Insular Lobe: this lobe is located beneath the other four lobes, and
cannot be seen without pushing aside the frontal and temporal lobes.
Scientists are not sure what functions this lobe control, but some
studies indicate it is related to controlling behavior related to feelings
The Diencephalon is located below the two hemispheres of the cerebrum
and above the brain stem. This area of the brain can be divided into two
major parts, the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus is associated
with transmitting sensory impulses and the hypothalamus is associated
with maintaining homeostasis in the body by controlling temperature,
sleep, appetite, and some emotions.
The cerebellum, or “little brain”, is similar to the cerebrum in its external
morphology. It also has two hemispheres highly convoluted on the
surface, or cortex. This structure is associated with regulation and
coordination of movement, posture, and balance. It is also believed to
play a role in cognitive development. It is located below the rear part of
the cerebrum, right behind the brainstem. The cerebellum represents 11%
of the brain’s weight and contains more neurons that any other part of
the brain. (Neurons form connections and patterns in the brain by
transmitting information using chemical signals.) The cerebellum is so
tightly folded that its surface area is about the same as one of the
hemispheres of the cerebrum.
The cerebellum is known to hold the memory of automated movements
and other skills that require little attention to detail once learned. This
allows the brain to attend to other mental activities, thus allowing for
greater cognitive functioning.
It is traditionally believed that the cerebellum is purely involved with
motor control, however there is evidence to support the idea that the
cerebellum contributes to cognitive processing and control of emotions.
The brain stem is located below the Diencephalon and connects to the
spinal cord, which is found inside the vertebrae of the spine. It can be
divided into three structural parts:
1. MIDBRAIN: This area forms the upper part of the brain stem and
functions to control and regulate various reflex actions such as those
involved in the eyes, such as in the process of reading.
2. PONS: This area is located below the midbrain and is composed of
nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the cerebellum to the brain
stem. The name “pons” means bridge as it is a bridge to these parts of
the brain. The pons plays an important role in connecting the cerebellum
with the rest of the nervous system, and is vital for integrating
such involuntary actions as breathing.
3. MEDULLA OBLONGATA: Located below the Pons, this region of the
brain stem directly connects to the spinal cord. It contains a collection
of nerve fibers that include motor fibers extending from the cerebrum.
These fibers cross each other in this area of the brain stem and
results in the right half of the brain controlling the left side of the body
and the left half of the brain controlling the right side of the body.
The Medulla Oblongata contains vital clusters of nerves involved in
respiration, heartbeat and blood pressure.
All materials should be available at the beginning of the activity. Two
sided copies can be made to conserve paper. To further save paper, teachers can make a class set (one per student) of the background information for students to read. Each student will need a copy of the worksheets.
For students needing more assistance, provide copy of slide show
(available online with this activity). Also, fill in the note taking sheet so
students need only to color the brain as the slide show progresses.
Students could role play different areas of the brain and their functions,
having others in the class guess their structure.
There is a subsequent unit on brain imaging that builds on this unit. The
Brain Imaging Activity explains the history and development of imaging techniques. It includes images of brain scans and explanation of how scientists have used this technology to learn more about the brain.
Activity 1B Make Up Your Mind: Brain Cap builds on this activity, with students labeling parts of the brain based on this lesson to build a model of the brain. Activity 1B Make Up Your Mind: Brain Cap can also serve as an assessment.
Cohen, BJ. (2005). Memmler’s structure and function of the human body 8th ed. Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.
PowerPoint: ANATOMY of THE BRAIN