A Child's Brain and Spinal Cord


What is the central nervous system (CNS)?

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is an important organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, respirations, hunger, and every process that regulates our body. The brain generates the signal that tells our bodies to move and communicates that information to our muscles through the spinal cord. The spinal cord also receives sensory information from our body (touch, pain, temperature, vibration, etc) and communicates that information to the brain where we are then able to "feel."

What are the different parts of the brain?

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

Cerebrum. The cerebrum is composed of the right and left hemispheres. Functions of the cerebrum include: initiation of movement, coordination of movement, temperature, touch, vision, hearing, speech and language, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, emotions, and learning. The cerebrum is made up of 4 parts (lobes):

  • Frontal lobe.  The largest section of the brain located in the front of the head, the frontal lobe is involved in judgment, decision-making, some language functions, personality characteristics, and movement.
  • Parietal lobe. The parietal lobe helps a person to identify objects and understand spatial relationships (where one's body is compared to objects around the person). The parietal lobe is also involved in interpreting pain and touch in the body.
  • Occipital lobe.  The occipital lobe is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision.
  • Temporal lobe.  The sides of the brain, these temporal lobes are involved in memory, speech, and sense of smell.

Brainstem.  The brainstem includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. Functions of this area include: movement of the eyes and mouth, relaying sensory messages (such as heat, pain, or loudness), hunger, respiration, consciousness, cardiac function, body temperature, involuntary muscle movements, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing.

  • Midbrain. The midbrain contains control areas for eye movement and vision.
  • Pons. The pons contains control areas for eye and face movements as well as hearing.
  • Medulla.   The lowest part of the brainstem, the medulla is the most vital part of the entire brain and contains important control centers for the heart and lungs.

Cerebellum. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance, and equilibrium.