About the Brain

Before you can understand about brain and spinal tumors, it’s helpful to understand the anatomy of the brain and spine and how they function.

The brain and spinal cord make up the body’s central nervous system (CNS). Nerves in the brain and spinal cord send messages throughout the body. The CNS controls much of our daily activity – our thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations, motor skills, vision, respirations, temperature, hunger and other processes throughout our body. The CNS regulates who we are, our personality, our affect and our responses.

The brain can be divided into three major parts:

Cerebrum – the largest area of the brain composed of the right and left hemispheres.

Cerebellum – is the second largest area of the brain that consists of two hemispheres or halves, as well as the middle portion. The cerebellum is responsible for balance and the coordination of voluntary movements. It also plays an ill-defined role in language.

Together, the cerebrum and cerebellum make up the front of the brain and consist of four major lobes, each responsible for certain functions of the body. The frontal lobes are responsible for intellect, behavior, personality, short-term memory and initiation of voluntary movement. The parietal lobes process sensory information. The temporal lobes process speech, language, hearing and memory. The occipital lobes process visual information.

Brainstem – the brainstem is the bottom portion of the brain that connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. The brainstem is divided into three parts: the midbrain, the pons and the medulla oblongata. The midbrain is a passageway for visual and auditory information and partially controls eye movement. The pons is the passageway for information traveling between the cerebellum and the cerebrum, and partially controls eye movements, facial movement and facial sensation. The medulla oblongata controls vital functions to life such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, swallowing and vomiting.

Cerebral spinal fluid circulates through the entire CNS. This helps to cushion the delicate CNS tissues located inside the boney cranium and vertebral bodies. The brain contains four large spinal fluid spaces called ventricles – two lateral ventricles located in the cerebrum, the third ventricle located above the midbrain, and fourth ventricle located behind the brainstem and in front of the cerebellum.

The spinal cord is a continuation of the brainstem. It carries signals from the brain to the body controlling movement and sensation of the arms and legs and movement of the chest wall needed for breathing. It also controls the function of the bowel and bladder. The spinal cord is made up of several segments: the cervical cord, thoracic cord, lumbar cord, sacral cord and cauda equine. Twenty-six bones or vertebrae make up the vertebral column that surrounds and helps protect the spinal cord.

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