Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Anatomy of the brain

The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is an important organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, respirations, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body.

The brain can be divided into the cerebrum, the brain stem and the cerebellum:

  • Cerebrum (supratentorial or front of brain) – composed of the right and left hemispheres. Functions of the cerebrum include: initiation of movement, coordination of movement, temperature, touch, vision, hearing, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, emotions and learning.
  • Brain stem (midline or middle of brain) – includes the midbrain, the pons and the medulla. Functions of this area include: movement of the eyes and mouth, relaying sensory messages (i.e., hot, pain, loud), hunger, respirations, consciousness, cardiac function, body temperature, involuntary muscle movements, sneezing, coughing, vomiting and swallowing.
  • Cerebellum (infratentorial or back of brain) – located at the back of the head, its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance and equilibrium.