Some Basic Brain Anatomy to Help You Understand Memory

Basic Brain Anatomy in a Nutshell

This is a simple explanation of what the different parts of the brain do so that you can understand our articles better.  This is by no means the whole picture of what this amazing organ does for us on a daily basis and is just a starting point for your own reading and research. Scientists are still not in total agreement on every point of function and there is still a lot to be learned, not just about memory but also about how we think, our emotions, our personalities and that elusive concept, our conscious and unconscious mind.  The quest for cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease has to start with the knowledge of how our brains work and the chemical and electrical processes that are involved so this is a field of tremendous interest and research with new theories and research results coming out regularly.  You don’t have to be an expert in anatomy but it does help to understand the different what the different areas do.

Two Hemispheres

Our brains are divided into two hemispheres, left and right and each is responsible for the opposite side of the body, as anyone who has a loved one who has had a stroke may have found out.  While we have duplicate parts in both hemispheres, their functions vary slightly and damage or developmental changes on one side can have an impact on how the brain functions as a whole.  It is now believed that memories are stored in different parts of the brain depending on what we are remembering and that different components of a memory of an event are then brought together during the process of recall so no part of the brain is superfluous.

The Frontal Lobes

The frontal lobes – these are in our forehead so quite vulnerable if we have concussion or traumatic brain injury. The frontal lobes are responsible for planning, organising, problem-solving, MEMORY, impulse control, decision making, selective attention and controlling our behaviour and emotions.  The left frontal lobe is responsible for speech and language.  Damage to the frontal lobes may affect emotions, impulse control, language, MEMORY as well as social and sexual behaviour.

The Temporal Lobes

The temporal lobes are responsible for recognising and processing sound, understanding and producing speech and various aspects of memory.  Injury to this part of the brain may affect hearing, language, ability to recognise faces and ability to process sensory information which is the essential first step in memory.

The Parietal Lobes

The parietal lobes integrate sensory information from various parts of the body.  They contain the primary sensory cortex which controls sensation. The parietal lobes tell us which way is up and help to keep us located as we move about and walk.  Injury may affect the ability to locate and recognise parts of our body so for instance you may no longer realise that the pain that you are feeling is coming from your foot or that your hand has picked up something hot.

The Occipital Lobe

The occipital lobe receives and processes visual information and helps us to perceive shapes and colours.  Injury to this part of the brain may distort our visual field, perception of size, colour and shape.

The Cerebellum

The cerebellum controls balance, movement and co-ordination.  This is what helps us to stand upright, keep balance and move around.  This works in close conjunction with information received from the parietal lobes. Injury may affect movement, muscle tone and gait.

The Brain Stem

The brain stem which is at the base of the skull where it connects with the spinal column controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing, alertness and sensation. Injury may affect the heart rate, breathing and swallowing.

The Hippocampus

The hippocampus is responsible for memory creation and retention.  This part of the brain helps us to create new memories and orient ourselves in our surroundings.  Injury may affect new memory creation and retention as well as causing mood issues, confusion and disorientation.

The Amygdala

The amygdala is responsible for emotions and survival instincts so it controls how we respond to different stimuli.  This is important for the emotional associations with memory formation.

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