Posted by: Thixia | October 25, 2008

Diagram of ­Brain Mechanisms 3 of 7

Brain Parts


The simplest possible creatures have incredibly simple nervous systems made up of nothing but reflex pathways.  For example, flatworms and invertebrates do not have a centralized brain.  They have loose associations of neurons arranged in simple reflex pathways.  Flatworms have neural nets, individual neurons linked together that form a net around the entire animal. 

Most invertebrates (such as the lobster) have simple “brains” that consist of localized collections of neuronal cell bodies called ganglia.  Each ganglion controls sensory and motor functions in its segment through reflex pathways, and the ganglia are linked together to form a simple nervous system.  As nervous systems evolved, chains of ganglia evolved into more centralized simple brains.

Brains evolved from ganglia of invertebrates.  Regardless of

the animal, brains have the following parts:



Major Divisions of
the Brain

*         Spinal cord

*         Brain stem

*         Forebrain

·   Diencephalon – thalamus, hypothalamus

·   Cerebral cortex
















*             Brain stem – The brain stem consists of the medulla (an enlarged portion of the upper spinal cord), pons and midbrain (lower animals have only a medulla).  The brain stem controls the reflexes and automatic functions (heart rate, blood pressure), limb movements and visceral functions (digestion, urination). 

*             Cerebellum – The cerebellum integrates information from the vestibular system that indicates position and movement and uses this information to coordinate limb movements. 

*             Hypothalamus and pituitary gland – These control visceral functions, body temperature and behavioral responses such as feeding, drinking, sexual response, aggression and pleasure. 

*             Cerebrum (also called the cerebral cortex or just the cortex) – The cerebrum consists of the cortex, large fiber tracts (corpus callosum) and some deeper structures (basal ganglia, amygdala, hippocampus).  It integrates information from all of the sense organs, initiates motor functions, controls emotions and holds memory and thought processes (emotional expression and thinking are more prevalent in higher mammals). 





As you proceed from fish toward humans, you can see that the cortex gets bigger, takes up a larger portion of the total brain and becomes folded.  The enlarged cortex takes on additional higher-order functions, such as information processing, speech, thought and memory.  In addition, the part of the brain called the thalamus evolved to help relay information from the brain stem and spinal cord to the cerebral cortex. 


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