General information about human brain

The brain is

[Continued from above] . . . in the study of the body; doctors, psychologists, and scientists are continually endeavoring to learn exactly how the many structures of the brain work together intricately to create our powerful human mind.

Anatomy of the Brain

There are different ways of dividing the brain anatomically into regions. Let’s use a common method and divide the brain into three main regions based on embryonic development: the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. Under these divisions:

  • The forebrain (or prosencephalon) is made up of our incredible cerebrum, thalamus, hypothalamus and pineal gland among other features. Neuroanatomists call the cerebral area the telencephalon and use the term diencephalon (or interbrain) to refer to the area where our thalamus, hypothalamus and pineal gland reside.
  • The midbrain (or mesencephalon), located near the very center of the brain between the interbrain and the hindbrain, is composed of a portion of the brainstem.
  • The hindbrain (or rhombencephalon) consists of the remaining brainstem as well as our cerebellum and pons. Neuroanatomists have a word to describe the brainstem sub-region of our hindbrain, calling it the myelencephalon, while they use the word metencephalon in reference to our cerebellum and pons collectively.

Before exploring these different regions of the brain, first let’s define the important types of cells and tissues that are the building blocks of them all.

Histology
Brain cells can be broken into two groups: neurons and neuroglia.

Neurons, or nerve cells, are the cells that perform all of the communication and processing within the brain. Sensory neurons entering the brain from the peripheral nervous system deliver information about the condition of the body and its surroundings. Most of the neurons in the brain’s gray matter are interneurons, which are responsible for integrating and processing information delivered to the brain by sensory neurons. Interneurons send signals to motor neurons, which carry signals to muscles and glands.

Neuroglia, or glial cells, act as the helper cells of the brain; they support and protect the neurons. In the brain there are four types of glial cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells.

  • Astrocytes protect neurons by filtering nutrients out of the blood and preventing chemicals and pathogens from leaving the capillaries of the brain.
  • Oligodendrocytes wrap the axons of neurons in the brain to produce the insulation known as myelin. Myelinated axons transmit nerve signals much faster than unmyelinated axons, so oligodendrocytes accelerate the communication speed of the brain.
  • Microglia act much like white blood cells by attacking and destroying pathogens that invade the brain.
  • Ependymal cells line the capillaries of the choroid plexuses and filter blood plasma to produce cerebrospinal fluid.

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