“It is very common to believe that human thoughts, feelings and emotions originate in two parts of the brain that work together: the cerebral hemispheres, two virtually identical halves that are distinguished by the processes that take place in them.”
This idea, although it is true in part, provides a very simple explanation about our functioning, because within each hemisphere we can find an almost infinite number of organic structures responsible for performing different tasks and functions that influence our behavior.
In this article you can find a general explanation on some of the most important parts of our “thinking machine”: the lobes of the brain and their functions.
Basics about the lobes of the brain
Anatomically, it is very easy to recognize the division that exists between the two hemispheres of the brain, because seen from above a remarkable space keeps them separated. It is the interhemispheric fissure, which is something like a rectilinear crack that separates the upper and more superficial parts of the brain and defines where a cerebral hemisphere begins and where another ends.
However, beyond this obvious sign through which we can get a very superficial idea about the anatomy of the brain, if what we want to examine is the structure of each of these elements the thing gets complicated. Each hemisphere is covered by a layer called the cerebral cortex (which is the most visible part of the brain and seems to be full of wrinkles and furrows), and this cortex can be divided into different plots according to their different functions and locations.
In humans, it is the largest of the lobes of the brain. It is characterized by its role in the processing of high level cognitive functions such as the planning, coordination, execution and control of behavior. By extension, it also makes it possible to establish goals, forecast, articulate language and regulate emotions. In addition, the ability to take others into account and establish theory of mind is born from the frontal lobe.
In short, it is one of the cerebral lobes with a more prominent role in the functions that we would relate in a more direct way with the intelligence, the planning and the coordination of sequences of complex voluntary movements. This part of the cortex is typical of vertebrate animals and is especially large in mammals and birds, since these evolutionary groups contain the most intelligent species on the planet.
It is located between the frontal and occipital lobes (yellow in the image). It is mainly responsible for processing sensory information that comes from all parts of the body, such as touch, sensation of temperature, pain and pressure, and is able to relate this information to the recognition of numbers. It also makes it possible to control movements thanks to its proximity to the frontal lobe planning centers.
In addition, it receives visual information from the occipital lobe and works creating associations between this type of data and other inputs from other areas.
In humans, it is the smallest of the four main lobes of the brain and is located in the posterior area of the skull, near the nape of the neck (it appears painted red in the illustration). It is the first area of the neocortex to which visual information arrives.
Therefore, it has a crucial role in the recognition of objects whose light is projected onto the retina, although by itself it does not have the capacity to create coherent images. These images are created from the processing of these data in areas of the brain called visual association areas.
The occipital lobe sends information about vision to other brain lobes through two different communication channels.
The first one, which goes to the frontal area of the brain through the ventral area (that is, the one farthest from the upper part of the head), processes information about the “what” of what is seen, ie , the content of the vision.
The second channel, which goes to the front through the dorsal area (near the crown), processes the “how” and the “where” of what is seen, that is, aspects of movement and location in a broader context.
The temporal lobes of each hemisphere are located on the sides of the brain, arranged horizontally and attached to the temples (one of them appears marked in green in the image). They receive information from many other areas and lobes of the brain and their functions have to do with memory and the recognition of patterns in the data coming from the senses. Therefore, it plays a role in the recognition of faces and voices, but also in the memory of words.
The insula is a part of the cortex that is hidden between the rest of the lobes of the brain and to see it, it is necessary to separate the temporal and parietal lobes from each other. That is why it is often not considered as one more lobe.
It is attached to structures responsible for making possible the appearance of emotions and is probably responsible for mediating between these and the cognitive processes that take place in the rest of the lobes of the brain.