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 Hindbrain!
Figure 1: The Hindbrain, or Rhombencephalon.
The Hindbrain forms out of the lower initial vesicle of the neural tube. This vesicle subdivides into two further vesicles that give rise to the Metencephalon, consisting of the pons and the cerebellum, and the Myelencephalon, consisting of the Medulla Oblongata. The general function of the hindbrain is to support vital bodily processes.
The Pons and Medulla Oblongata form respectively the middle and lower part of the brainstem. The Pons, which in Latin literally means ‘bridge’, looks like a bridge linking the medulla oblongata and the midbrain. It is also at the Pons that the Cerebellum is attached to the rest of the brain. The pons has two over-arching roles: regulation of breathing and transmission of signals between other structures of the brain (like the cerebrum and the cerebellum).
Figure 2: The Pons.
The Medulla Oblongata, the lowest part of the brainstem, connects the brain to the spinal cord. It is responsible for a couple of autonomic (involuntary) functions ranging from vomiting to sneezing.
Figure 3: The Medulla Oblongata.
The last major part of the hindbrain is the Cerebellum. In Latin, this literally means “little brain”, as indeed it visually presents a lot of similarities with the Cerebrum. But its function and inner structure is quite different from that of the Cerebrum. It is located at the lower back of the head, and as stated before, connected to the rest of the brain through the Pons. The Cerebellum is the seat of muscle-control coordination and balance.
Figure 4: The Cerebellum.
The Cerebellum looks as if it had two hemispheres with a constriction (called the ‘vermis’) at the center, just like the cerebrum, which is why they’re called ‘cerebellar hemispheres’. But contrary to the cerebrum, where we have two well-defined separate hemispheres only connected through a couple of nerve bridges, the tissues in the cerebellum are continuous from one hemisphere to the other throughout the constriction. The whole cerebellum is substantially one structure.
Figure 5: Cerebellum, cerebellar hemispheres, Pons and vermis.
So now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with some basic nomenclature of the overall brain architecture, let’s get back to a peculiarity that we haven’t properly addressed throughout this article: why the hell do we have two cerebral hemispheres, and what do they do? This will be the subject of the next article in our “Explain the Brain” column, so be sure to subscribe to the Cortex Machina news feed to never miss a new article!
Also, visit us at https://cortex-machina.com/ to read further articles on neurobiology, neuroscience, Brain-to-Computer Interface technology (BCI), neuro-gaming, machine learning neural pattern recognition, and much more!
A big thanks for your reading from the entire Cortex Machina team!
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