Take A Medical Look At Your Brain
Everything you can see, hear, touch, and feel is wired through one part of your body: your brain. Without a brain, you wouldn't be able to find jokes funny, make decisions, or come up with any new ideas. Science has progressed farther than ever before in history, but even today, medical scientists still don't fully understand how the brain allows humans to be conscious. Consciousness is the thing that allows you to think of yourself as an individual. However, there is a lot that medical scientists do know about the brain.
The brain is made of five basic parts and many smaller ones, but we'll focus on the main five for now. The first part is called the brain stem, and it is located on the underside of your brain. The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord, which sends all of the brain's important commands (like breathing and making the heartbeat) to the rest of the body. The second part is called the cerebellum. The cerebellum is snuggled up right next to the brain stem, and it controls things like balance and muscle coordination. Every time you walk across a balance beam or play hopscotch, it's the cerebellum that makes it possible.
The next part of the brain is the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a tiny little spot right up on the front of the brain stem. This is the gland that is responsible for regulating your hormones as you grow and age. It also helps control your metabolism, which is how your body processes food and energy. It's the gland that keeps you growing!
The fourth part of the brain is called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located right next to the pituitary gland, but its job is to keep your body temperature normal. When you're outside in the winter and your body gets too cold, the hypothalamus sends instructions to the brain that make you shiver so that you'll warm back up. The same thing happens when it's summer and your body gets too hot. The hypothalamus will tell your body to start sweating to cool you back down.
The fifth part of the brain, the cerebrum, is actually split into two different parts. The cerebrum is the big, pink, wormy-looking part that covers most of the brain. You've probably seen it on medical diagrams or even in zombie movies. The cerebrum's two main parts are called the left hemisphere (that's a fancy word for "half") and the right hemisphere. It may all be in one location of the brain, but these different parts play very different roles in how you think and act.
The Left Side Brain
The first thing to understand about the cerebrum is that both sides actually control opposite sides of the body. If a person is right-handed (they write and throw balls with their right hand), it's the left side of the brain that activates when they think about throwing a ball. Similarly, if someone gets a nasty bump on the left side of their head, they may notice that they can't control their right arm as well as they usually can. It may seem weird, but it's true!
The left side of the brain, as far as medical science can tell, controls the language abilities we have. Every time you read, do math, write, speak, or remember something that someone said, that's the left side of your brain at work. If someone is said to be "left-brained," it may mean that they have a better memory for language or math, or they may be better at studying. However, to work properly, the left side of the brain has to communicate with the right side of the brain.
The Right Side Brain
Just like the left side, the right side of the brain controls the opposite half of the body. Get a scratch on your left hand and it's the right side of your brain that will register the pain. Since the left side of the brain takes care of reading and writing, the right side of the brain is the part that comes up with the ideas to read and write about. The right side of the brain processes emotions and decides what it thinks about a certain kind of music. It can also remember a smell or a color.
While it may seem like each side of the brain has a lot of work to do, they're set up in four different lobes that handle different tasks. Think of a lobe like a desk or work station where the worker can do only one thing. If the brain needs to say something, make a decision, or exhibit self-control, the person sitting at the first desk (the frontal lobe) will handle that job. The temporal lobe is the desk that looks up different memories and emotions, and it helps the brain figure out what it's hearing, too. The occipital lobe will interpret what is seen through the eyes, whether it's an approaching Frisbee or words on a page.
The last lobe, the parietal lobe, is the group leader of all of the desks. This lobe is the one that will interpret all of the different information coming in from the other lobes. If the temporal lobe reports hearing music and the frontal lobe reports dancing and feeling happy, the parietal lobe will neatly file all of that information and store it in new memory. No matter what you see or experience, your brain is primed and ready to interpret it and help you make sense of the world. Take care of your brain, and it'll take care of you!
Burt Cancaster, Author