Jul 20, 2022 10:00 pm

The Cortex Machina project has its origins in a deeply rooted fascination with neurobiology in general, and the biological origins of consciousness in particular. Unfortunately, it can often be very challenging to discuss and share these fascinating concepts, simply because they generally require a lot of prior knowledge which is, to say the least, quite unfamiliar to most people. That’s why we have started this series of short columns: to kindle interest in the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology and to provide my readers with enough general knowledge on the human brain and cognition to start exploring and sharing these fascinating concepts themselves. We will start with a series of articles on brain anatomy, to provide the reader with an understanding of brain architecture and nomenclature, which will be helpful later on when we discuss other topics. So without further ado, let’s enter now into your Forebrain!

The Forebrain (Prosencephalon)

Figure 1: The Forebrain, consisting of Telencephalon and Diencephalon.

The Forebrain, or Prosencephalon, develops out of the upper initial vesicle of the neural tube. This ‘forebrain vesicle’ later subdivides further into two vesicles that give rise to the Telencephalon and the Diencephalon (see Fig.2b in Story 1 – Introduction to your brain). Remarkably, these two structures are divided into approximately symmetrical left and right hemispheres. We’ll take a closer look at the division between hemispheres in the next article. 

Figure 2: Cortical hemispheres and corpus callosum.

The Telencephalon is just another name for the Cerebrum, the part of the brain containing the cerebral cortex and which is the seat of our higher cognitive functions like vision, language, reasoning, learning, touch, and fine-motor control, see Fig.3. We’ll mostly focus on this part of the brain further on, as this is also where our consciousness and our minds are generated.

Figure 3: Telencephalon.

The Diencephalon, which is located between the telencephalon and the midbrain, contains the thalamus, hypothalamus, epithalamus, subthalamus, and pituitary gland. Note that these structures are also duplicated in the left and right hemispheres, just like structures in the Cerebrum.

Figure 4: Diencephalon.

The thalamus is generally believed to act as a relay station, or hub, relaying information between different subcortical areas and the cerebral cortex in the Telencephalon. The hypothalamus regulates certain metabolic processes and activities of the autonomic nervous system. It does this by secreting neurohormones that activate the pituitary gland and in this way control the body temperature, hunger, aspects attachment behaviors, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. The pituitary gland synthetizes and secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream (endocrine gland).

Figure 5: Thalamus, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland.

A big thanks for your reading from the entire Cortex Machina team!

You can find all our stories already published on our blog.

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