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The nervous system develops from embryonic tissue called the
The first sign of the developing nervous system is the neural plate that
can be seen at about the 16th day of development.
Over the next few days, a "trench" is formed in the neural plate - this
creates a neural groove.
By the 21st day of development, a neural tube is formed when the
edges of the neural groove meet.
The rostral (front) part of the neural tubes goes on to develop into the
brain and the rest of the neural tube develops into the spinal cord.
Neural crest cells become the peripheral nervous system.

By the fourth week of development, the human brain begins to form as

an expansion of the anterior end (actually, the end towards the head)
of the neural tube.
At the front end of the neural tube, three major brain areas are formed:
the prosencephalon (forebrain), mesencepalon (midbrain) and
rhombencephalon (hindbrain).
By the 7th week of development, these three areas divide again. This
process is called encephalization.
During fetal development, two anterior outpocketings extend from the
forebrain and grow rapidly to form the cerebral hemispheres.
Because of space restrictions imposed by the skull, the cerebral
hemispheres are forced to grow posteriorly and inferiorly, and finally

ends up enveloping and obscuring the rest of the forebrain and most of
the midbrain structures.
Somewhat later in development, the dorsal part of the hindbrain
enlarges to form the cerebellum.
The central canal of the neural tube, which remains continuous
throughout the brain and cord, becomes enlarged in four regions of the
brain, forming chambers called ventricles.
Forebrain includes the hypothalamus and the cerebral hemispheres.
Hindbrain includes the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata
The midbrain changes least during development.

The functions of the main parts of the brain

- Cerebellum



Controls balance and posture

Together with the cerebrum

contains the centers that

pressure and rate of breathing
controls the cranial reflexes of



controls the cranial reflexrs

concerned with pupil size (iris

contains centers which control

many aspects of homeostasis,
e.g. body temperature and
production of the hormone ADH
which is then stored in the
posterior pituitary gland



corpus callosum

cerebral hemispheres

connects left and right cerebral


receive sensory information

from receptors
interpret and analyse this
information and are the site of
higher mental activities, e.g.

memory and learning

send out motor impulses to

control the action of voluntary

Brain Regions
The brain is divided into the cerebrum, diencephalons, brain stem, and

The largest and most obvious portion of the brain is the cerebrum,
which is divided by a deep longitudinal fissure into two cerebral
The two hemispheres are two separate entities but are connected by
an arching band of white fibers, called the corpus callosum that
provides a communication pathway between the two halves.
Each cerebral hemisphere is divided into five lobes, four of which have
the same name as the bone over them: the fontal lobe, the parietal
lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe. A fifth lobe, the insula
or Island of Reil, lies deep within the lateral sulcus.


The diencephalons is centrally located and is nearly surrounded by the

cerebral hemispheres.
It includes the thalamus, hypothalamus, and epithalamus.
The thalamus, about 80 percent of the diencephalons, consists of two
oval masses of gray matter that serve as relay stations for sensory
impulses, except for the sense of smell, going to the cerebral cortex.
The hypothalamus is a small region below the thalamus, which plays a
key role in maintaining homeostasis because it regulates many visceral
The epithalamus is the most dorsal portion of the diencephalons. This
small gland is involved with the onset of puberty and rhythmic cycles
in the body. It is like a biological clock.

Brain Stem

The brain stem is the region between the diencephalons and the spinal
It consists of three parts: midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata.
The midbrain is the most superior portion of the brain stem.
The pons is the bulging middleportion of the brain stem. This region
primarily consists of nerve fibers that form conduction tracts between
the higher brain centers and spinal cord.
The medulla oblongata, or simply medulla, extends inferiorly from the
pons. It is continuous with the spinal cord at the foramen magnum. All
the ascending (sensory) and descending (motor) nerve fibers
connecting the brain and spinal cord pass through the medulla.

The cerebellum, the second largest portion of the brain, is located

below the occipital lobes of the cerebrum.
Three paired bundles of myelinated nerve fibers, called cerebellar
peduncles, form communication pathways between the cerebellum and
other parts of the central nervous system.
The cerebellum processes and interprets impulses from the motor
cortex and sensory pathways and coordinates motor activity so that
smooth, well-timed movements occur. It also pays a poorly understood
role in cognition.
Functional Brain Systems
A functional brain system is a network of neurons that work together
and span relatively large distances within the brain.
Examples: the limbic system and the reticular formation

The limbic system

Located on the medial aspect of each cerebral hemisphere and in the

Cerebral structures encircle the midbrain and include parts of the
rhinencephalon and part of the amygdala
Diencephalonic structures include the hypothalamus and the anterior
thalamic nuclei
The fornix (and other tracts) links the limbic regions together
The limbic system is involved in emotions and feelings
Psychosomatic illnesses have their root in the limbic system
Cardiac arrest is the most extreme consequence of severe emotional
Thoughts and feelings are intimately linked due to the limbic system's
interaction with the prefrontal lobes
This explains why sometimes emotions override logic
This also explains why logic sometimes suppresses emotion

The hippocampus and the amygdala also play a role in long term
memory storage
Lesions of the amygdala can result in emotion-related personality
changes : docility, restlessness, pugnaciousness, oversexed behavior,
Lesions of the cingulate gyrus destroys the will and the desire to act

The reticular formation

Extends through the central core of the brain stem with radiations to
the cerebral cortex
Composed of loosely clustered neurons in otherwise white matter
The reticular neurons can be localized into three broad columns : the
raphe nuclei (midline), the medial nuclear group (lateral to the raphe)
and the lateral nuclear group (lateral to the medial and raphe)
Individual reticular neurons project to cells in the hypothalamus,
thalamus, cerebellum, and spinal cord
The widespread connections make the reticular formation ideal for
arousing the brain as a whole
The reticular activating system (RAS) sends a continuous stream of
impulses to the cerebral cortex, promoting consciousness, and seems
to also act as a filter for the flood of sensory inputs (ascending sensory
tracts synapse with RAS neurons, enhancing their arousing effects)
The RAS and the cerebral cortex ignore roughly 99% of all sensory
LSD removes these sensory dampeners, promoting sensory overload
The RAS is inhibited by sleep centers and depressed also by alcohol,
sleep-inducers and tranquilizers
Severe injury to the RAS can result in a coma

The motor arm of the reticular formation helps control skeletal muscles
during coarse limb movements and other reticular motor nuclei
(vasomotor, cardiac and respiratory centers of the medulla), regular
visceral motor function
Ventricles and Cerebrospinal Fluid
A series of interconnected, fluid-filled cavities are found within the
brain. These cavities are the ventricles of the brain, and the fluid is
cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
CSF is secreted by the ventricles and circulates through them and
along the central canal of the spinal cord before being reabsorbed back
into the blood.
Amongst other functions of the CSF provides protective cushioning for
the delicate brain tissue.
Some protection is also provided by three layers of tough membranes
called meninges which surround the brain and the spinal cord. CSF also
circulates in a space between the meninges.