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The forebrain and midbrain are both a part of the central nervous system, along with the spinal cord. In this system, there are different parts that serve a variety of specific functions, and that is probably the biggest difference between the forebrain and the midbrain. The forebrain, in general, is responsible for many functions such as intelligence, memory and voluntary movement. The midbrain, while responsible for other functions as well, coordinates the communication that passes between the brain and the spinal cord. Besides being responsible for specific functions, other differences between the forebrain and midbrain include the variation in size, how many structures each part contains within, and the separate physical locations in the brain.
Two of three main sections of the brain are the forebrain and midbrain, with the third one being the hindbrain. The forebrain is the largest of the three sections and the midbrain is the smallest. The main part of the forebrain, and the brain in general, is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres and also contains the four lobes of the brain. In addition, the forebrain also consists of deeper structures such as the hypothalamus and the amygdala. The midbrain, on the other hand, is very small in comparison and sits at the top part of the brain stem, underneath the forebrain.
As there is a considerable size difference between the forebrain and midbrain, it is understandable that the forebrain is comprised of a greater amount of structures. The midbrain though, is just that — the midbrain. So as the structures of the forebrain each perform specific functions that together make up what the forebrain is responsible for, the midbrain, in comparison, performs fewer. This does not mean that the midbrain is useless, however. Considering the relationship between the forebrain and midbrain, without the midbrain, the forebrain would not be able to communicate with the spinal cord.
The midbrain’s function in aiding the communication between the brain and the spinal cord is made easier by its location because it is a part of the brain stem. While the midbrain sits at the top of the brain stem, the uppermost part of the spinal cord is at the bottom of the brain stem. In between the two lies the pons and medulla. As the top of the brainstem, the midbrain connects the brainstem with the forebrain. The midbrain does serve other functions other than relaying communication; it also controls some reflexes and helps control voluntary movements as well.
@irontoenail - It is quite difficult to dissect a brain, and to some extent it is a bit of guess work as a lot of the time the different areas don't look all that different from each other.
Although if you had had a chance to pick one up and look at it properly, instead of in a jar, and compare it to some diagrams, you might have been able to make out some things.
It's pretty easy to learn which parts are the forebrain and which are the midbrain, even though they are all roughly the same color. Although the midbrain is underneath the forebrain, so you'd need to look at a specimen that had already been dissected in order to really see it.
Although if you're curious, you might be better off looking in a textbook.
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