Ah, we finally arrive at the the area of the brain that most people think of when they think of the brain! The top most layer of our brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into the right and left hemispheres. The cerebrum is encircled by a thin layer called the cerebral cortex or neocortex. The cortex, which means “bark” in Latin, contains six layers of cells and is jam packed with neurons.
As we process information our cerebral cortex gets busy deciding what to do with it. First the thalamus receives external input and zips it along to the area of the cerebrum that deals with that specific type of sensory information. The cortex then determines if the information should be saved in memory and, if so, sends factual information to the hippocampus and emotional information to the amygdala.
The cerebrum, which is the largest portion of our brain, is further defined by four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital.
Located in the front of the brain in the forehead area is the frontal lobe, which is responsible for what is known as “executive function”. Think of an executive – the person in charge – and you will get a sense of the duties of the frontal lobe: planning, organizing, controlling behavior, short-term memory, problem-solving, creativity and judgment.
At the back of our brain is the occipital lobe, our primary visual area.
The temporal lobes are on both sides of your brain, near the temples and around your ears. These lobes handle hearing, memory, and language. Additionally, the temporal lobes help us assign emotional value to stimuli, situations and memories.
In between are the parietal lobes, the primary somatosensory strip. Huh? They are the first place where sensations from the body are assimilated, thus integrating motor experience into a cohesive pattern that we recognize as a spatial image of ourselves. (Thank you Mary Helen Immordino-Yang for that explanation!) In other words, these lobes process higher level sensory and language functions.