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What Is Brain Physiology?

Brain physiology is the study of the functions and processes of the brain.
One important element of brain physiology is the limbic system.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Physiology derives from physiologia, a Latin word meaning “natural science.” A subfield of biology, physiology is the study of living organs, their parts, and their functions. Therefore, brain physiology is the study of the functions and processes that involve the brain. Brain physiology also includes the study of the component parts of the brain, and its possible problems and dysfunctions.

Understanding brain physiology necessitates understanding the parts of the brain. The main parts of the brain are the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum is both the largest and most developed area of the human brain, and it has two hemispheres, denoted right and left, and includes four pairs of lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. The cerebellum is the next largest area. The brain stem is connection between the brain and the spinal cord.

Other important elements of brain physiology are the nervous system and the limbic system. The central nervous system (CNS), which is the biggest part of the nervous system, includes the spinal cord and the brain. The peripheral nerves found in the arms, legs, organs, and muscles complete the system. The limbic system is collection of interconnected brain structures that include the hippocampus and the amygdala.

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The study of brain physiology shows that the human brain is responsible for quite a number of functions that take place in the human body. The central nervous system, which includes the brain, can be thought of as the governance and processing locus for the entire nervous system and the body. The limbic system, housed near the cerebellum, is sometimes called the “emotional nervous system” and is closely tied to our moods and feelings, higher mental functions, and memory formation. The cerebellum helps with the coordination of graceful motion. It contributes largely to the body’s posture and balance. And also, it contributes to motor learning.

The frontal lobe of the cerebrum is the locus of motor control, learning, planning, and some elements of speech. The parietal lobe is the site of control for somatic sensory functions. In the occipital lobe, vision is controlled. And the temporal lobes house the controls for hearing and other elements of speech. The cerebrum’s two hemispheres are each responsible for controlling the opposite side of the body, so the right hemisphere motor control, for example, controls the motor activity of the left side of the body. One of the hemispheres is dominant, leading to a preference for the opposite hand in most cases, but the left hemisphere is generally the controlling side for speech and language no matter which hemisphere is dominant in general.

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