How Does the Brain Work?

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Each of the brain's three basic parts, the hindbrain, the midbrain and the forebrain, have specific roles to play in brain and body function. The forebrain is divided into the left brain and the right brain, and each side controls certain mental and physical functions.

The hindbrain attaches to the upper part of the spinal cord and contains the cerebellum. This part of the brain controls automatic functions, like heart rate and respiration. The cerebellum helps coordinate movement. When a baseball player throws a pitch, it is the cerebellum that improves accuracy. The midbrain sits in front of the cerebellum and controls reflex actions, eye control and voluntary functions.

The forebrain houses the cerebrum. It stretches from the forehead all the way back to the base of the skull and is the thought process center. The cerebrum holds memories, helps recognize people and allows a person to think and learn. This is where the brain's division into two halves comes into play. The left brain governs speech and rational thinking, while the right brain is responsible for abstract reasoning and artistic endeavors.

The information within the brain and from brain to body is transferred by neurons, or nerve cells. These special cells have dendrites, branch-like extensions that receive and transmit messages from other neurons. Without neurons, the brain would shut down. Stroke victims often suffer neuron damage, which is why they may have trouble speaking or walking.