Understanding the brain’s structure is necessary for most all studies in psychology and biology, therefore the essential elements of the brain structure are vital to the understanding of clinical neuropsychology. Andrewes (2002) describes the basic unit of the brain structure as the neurones. It is estimated that the human brain has over 10 trillion of these cells (Stirling, 2002). These cells transmit messages between themselves through the release of chemical neurotransmitters and this function is often a variable in the cause of a variety of pathopsychologies such as depression or general anxiety disorder (Schatzberg, Cole, & DeBattista, 2007). This transmission of information, when functioning properly, consists of movement from the axon to presynamptic terminals to the postsynaptic receptors allowing for messages to be sent (Andrewes, 2002).
The brain, on a larger scale, is usually described in terms of its lobes and their functions. The temporal lobe is responsible for hearing, visual processing, and some memory functions; the frontal lobe is responsible for planning, managing inappropriate behaviors such as the primal desires of the id, and the working memory: the occipital lobe is responsible for the majority of visual processing; and the parietal lobe is responsible for some object recognition, touch, and special awareness (Stirling, 2002, p. 236). Further vital sections of the brain includes (but not limited to) the brainstem which contains the cerebellum (manages movement and complex skills), pons (manages coordinations such as eye movements), and medulla (manages heart rate, some reflexes, and respiration). Additionally, the thalamus is responsible for relaying sensory information and processing it while the hypothalamus controls behaviors such as eating and drinking as well as the endocrine system (Stirling, 2002).
As this topic matter can be challenging to visualize and comprehend with just text, I selected a website entitled “3-D Brain Anatomy” published by PBS (2008) to support this material. This website allows the user to click on different parts of the brain model to learn more about its functions and the brain model then rotates to allow the user to see the exact location on the brain. This website allows you to explore the brain by area (cerebellum, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, frontal lobe, occipital lobe, the brain stem, corpus callosum, limbic system, and thalamus) or by function (vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste, short-term memory, long-term memory, speech, emotion, and movement). Although the functions of this website could be considered basic, it is helpful in that it allows for a visualization of how the parts and the functions of the brain integrate together rather than just looking at a 2D picture in a book. This type of technology has a very advanced counterpart called 4D digital atlases which results from the compilation of thousands and thousands of MRIs, anatomical surface modeling, and volumetric image analysis studies (Toga, 2003). These processes are often used or gathered from longitudinal studies (more reliable) or cross sectional studies (less expensive with lower subject attrition rate) to map changes in not only non-symptomatic or diseased brains but also in patients suffering from tumors, dementia, or multiple sclerosis.
Andrewes, D. (2002) Neuropsychology: From theory to practice. New York: Psychology Press.
PBS. (2008, March 10). 3-d brain anatomy. Take a three-dimensional tour of the brain. Retrieved from www.pbs.org.
Schatzberg, A.F., Cole, J.O., DeBattista, C. (2007). Manual of clinical
psychopharmacology (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
Sterling, J. (2002). Introducing neuropsychology. New York: Psychology Press.
Toga, A. W. (2003). Temporal dynamics of brain anatomy. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, 5, 119-45.