The human brain. The “control center.” What does it control?
Practically everything. From breathing and heartbeat to reasoning, memory, and language. And it is the main part of the central nervous system.
Central Nervous System
The nervous system has two main divisions: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system (see the figure below). The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain and spinal cord (see the figure below). You can see an overview of the central nervous system at this link.
The brain is the most complex organ of the human body and the control center of the nervous system. It contains an astonishing 100 billion neurons! The brain controls such mental processes as reasoning, imagination, memory, and language. It also interprets information from the senses. In addition, it controls basic physical processes such as breathing and heartbeat.
The brain has three major parts: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem. These parts are shown in the figure below and described in this section.
- The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It controls conscious functions such as reasoning, language, sight, touch, and hearing. It is divided into two hemispheres, or halves. The hemispheres are very similar but not identical to one another. They are connected by a thick bundle of axons deep within the brain. Each hemisphere is further divided into the four lobes shown in the figure below.
- The cerebellum is just below the cerebrum. It coordinates body movements. Many nerve pathways link the cerebellum with motor neurons throughout the body.
- The brain stem is the lowest part of the brain. It connects the rest of the brain with the spinal cord and passes nerve impulses between the brain and spinal cord. It also controls unconscious functions such as heart rate and breathing.
The spinal cord is a thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue that extends from the brainstem and continues down the center of the back to the pelvis. It is protected by the vertebrae, which encase it. The spinal cord serves as an information superhighway, passing messages from the body to the brain and from the brain to the body.
Humanoid Robot Brains
The smartest people in the world have spent millions of dollars on developing high-tech robots. But even though technology has come a long way, these humanoid robots are nowhere close to having the “brain” and motor control of a human. Why is that? Learn about the motor control processes in the human brain, and how cutting-edge research is trying to implement it in robots below.
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- The central nervous includes the brain and spinal cord.
- The brain is the control center of the nervous system. It controls virtually all mental and physical processes.
- The spinal cord is a long, thin bundle of nervous tissue that passes messages from the body to the brain and from the brain to the body.