The Brain

February 12, 2002

drawing of a neuron
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          Can you believe that you need your brain to...?
Remember the way to school
Smell chocolate chip cookies
Solve math problems
Kick a soccer goal
Recognize colors
Play the piano
Enjoy reading
Create a Poem
Feel Happy
Feed the dog

It's true! Inside your skull your brain controls everything you do!!!

It is more powerful and faster than any computer.
Your brain is the most important part of you and it is very complicated.

James D. Watson said in Discovering the Brain, (National Academy Press, 1992), "The brain is the last and grandest biological frontier, the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe. It contains hundreds of billions of cells interlinked through trillions of connections. The brain boggles the mind."

WOW! WHERE IS YOUR BRAIN? Your brain fills the upper part of your bony head which is called the skull. The top part, called the cranium, is made of 8 bones. The rest of your skull includes 14 bones in the face and 3 small bones in each ear. How about that! There are 28 bones in your skull and your brain is tucked safely inside.   The skull
WHAT DOES YOUR BRAIN LOOK and FEEL LIKE? Your brain is the size of a large grapefruit but it looks like a large pinkish -gray walnut. There are many folds and creases and it feels soft and squishy. It weighs about 1 pound at birth, 2 pounds at elementary age, and 3 pounds as an adult.

A living brain is so soft that you could cut it with a butter knife.

How does a human's brain size compare with other animals' brain sizes?
Take a look at different animal skulls that a science teacher and his students have collected.
The brain is always working, even while you sleep.
Brain Stem

w the largest part of the brain  
w the outer part is called the cerebral cortex

about the size of a pear

located at the bottom of the brain, above the neck where it connects the brain to the spinal cord
divided into 2 parts called the right and left hemispheres tucked under and behind the cerebrum controls reflexes such as sneezing, swallowing, coughing
responsible for: thinking, senses, producing and understanding language, memories, eating, emotions, body temperature, drinking, sleeping, hormones controls muscle movement, balance, coordination responsible for automatic survival functions such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion, and keeping your body alive while you sleep
The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, the left hemisphere controls the right side. These two hemispheres are connected by nerves through the corpus callosum.
A diagram of the major parts of the brain
There is more to learn about the areas of the brain if you click on the yellow brain to the left.
You can't understand what the brain does without knowing about the spinal cord. The spinal cord is an extension of the brain that runs down the middle of the back. The spinal cord is about 44 cm (19 in) long in adults. It is protected by 33 bones called vertebrae. The
brain and the spinal cord are called the central nervous system. The central nervous system is one part of the nervous system. The rest is called the peripheral nervous system.
A diagram of the central and peripheral nervous systems

HOW ARE ALL THE PARTS OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM CONNECTED? The wires of the nervous system are called neurons. The brain and the spinal cord contain billions of neurons. They send and receive information throughout your body.
      All kinds of messages travel in neurons. If you touch a hot stove, neurons send a pain message from your finger to your brain. Your brain then sends a message through neurons, and through your spinal cord to the muscles in your arm to pull your hand away.    

You can take a look at a neuron by clicking here.
30,000 neurons can fit on the head of a pin.
Touch Ear Eye Nose Taste
Your SENSES work for your brain.
Some areas of the cerebral cortex are important for thinking and reasoning, some for voluntary movements and speech. There are also areas for your senses.
You see, hear, smell, taste and feel because of your brain. Your senses; touch,ear, eye, nose, and tongue gather information about your surroundings and send this information through sensory neurons to special areas in the cerebral cortex. Take a closer look at the cerebral cortex to see where the signals go to from each sense.
      Some parts of the body such as your hands and lips have more sensory neurons than other parts. They are for detecting touching, pressure, roughness, smoothness, dry, wet, cold, hot, and pain.
This body map, called an homunculus shows you how much of the cerebral cortex is responsible for processing touch receptor information.  Here's another view of an homunculus

The Franklin Institute Online has more information about your senses.

Be Amazed by Amazing Animal Senses from The University of Washington.

Neurons can send signals to thousands of other neurons at a rate of about 200 miles per hour.
Your brain can go without oxygen for 3-5 minutes before injury will occur

Scientists aren't sure how many brain cells you loose each day because of decay and misuse but you don't need to worry. You have enough to last for your whole lifetime!
We don't really know how all parts of the brain work together. Scientists, called neuroscientists, are doing experiments every day to try to solve these and other mysteries of the brain.
Unlike cut or scraped skin, or torn and broken bones that mend, your brain cannot repair itself. It is very important for you to keep it healthy.           Exercise your brain...THINK
It's time for you to test your brain, watch it learn, improve your memory, and more by visiting Kids' Links
Go to activities and information for teachers
Go to a Glossary of Brain and Nervous System words

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