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What is the cerebrum?
Your cerebrum is the largest part of your brain, and it handles a wide range of responsibilities. Located at the front and top of your skull, it gets its name from the Latin word meaning “brain.”
Your cerebrum is instrumental in everything you do in day-to-day life, ranging from thoughts to actions. In essence, it’s responsible for the brain functions that allow us to interact with our environment and make us who we are.
Scientists have been studying the brain for years, trying to unlock just how it works and how to diagnose and treat conditions that affect it. While experts know a lot about how the cerebrum works, there’s much that’s not fully understood. Fortunately, advances in technology and medical science have helped drive growth in what experts understand about the brain.
What’s the difference between the cerebellum and cerebrum?
Your cerebrum is the largest part of your brain and includes parts above and forward of your cerebellum. Your cerebrum is the part of your brain that starts and manages conscious thoughts; meaning, things that you actively think about or do.
Your cerebellum is a small part of your brain located at the bottom of this organ near the back of your head. It processes and regulates signals between other parts of your brain and body, and is involved in coordinating functions of your body (for example, walking).
What does the cerebrum do?
Your cerebrum handles much of your brain’s “conscious” actions. That means it’s responsible for elements that require thinking, including:
- Your five senses: Your cerebrum manages and processes everything your senses take in. That includes sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
- Language: Various parts of your cerebrum control your ability to read, write and speak.
- Working memory: This is a type of short-term memory. An example of working memory is when you remind yourself to pick up something from the grocery store.
- Behavior and personality: Part of your cerebrum is your frontal lobe, which manages your personality and behavior. It's the part of your brain that acts as a filter to stop you from doing or saying things you might later regret.
- Movement: Certain areas of your cerebrum send signals that tell your muscles what to do when you need to use them.
- Learning, logic and reasoning: Different areas of your cerebrum work together when you need to learn a new skill, make a plan of action or puzzle out a problem.
How does it help with other organs?
Your cerebrum works together with other parts of your brain, especially your cerebellum, to help you with your daily activities. An example of this is picking up a pencil off a table. Your cerebrum sends the signals to the muscles in your arms, and your cerebellum helps calculate and control your movements, so your hand goes right to the pencil without missing.
Your cerebellum not only manages conscious thoughts, but also planning and actions. That includes when you decide to be physically active, choose what to eat for a meal or set aside time to see a healthcare provider for any reason. Because of this, your cerebrum plays a critical role in the health and well-being of your entire body.
What are some interesting facts about the cerebrum?
- Crossed representation. When you do something with one side of your body, the other side of your brain is usually behind that process. An example of this is having a stroke on the left side of your brain and feeling its effects on the right side of your body.
- Your brain is very adaptable. Your brain can “rewire” itself. This ability can happen as you learn new skills or help you recover from injuries to your brain.
- Your brain has specialized areas. Different parts of your brain are responsible for different abilities and skills. However, that’s also fed into the disproven myth that some people are “left-brained” or “right-brained.”
Where is the cerebrum located?
Your cerebrum is inside of your skull, at the top and front of your head, and makes up the largest part of your brain.
What does it look like?
The outer surface of your cerebrum, your cerebral cortex, is mostly smooth but has many wrinkles, making it look something like a walnut without its shell. It’s divided lengthwise into two halves, the left and right hemisphere, by a deep groove. The two hemispheres connect using a structure called the corpus callosum (corp-us cal-oh-sum), a collection of nerve tissue that transmits signals from one side of your brain to the other.
The two hemispheres of your brain also have five main lobes each:
- Frontal (at the front of your head). This lobe handles things like attention, behavior control (your sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not), the ability to speak and certain types of muscle movements.
- Parietal (at the top of your head). This area handles touch, temperature and pain signals. It also helps with how you see the world around you, especially judging distance from and the size of objects. It also plays a role in processing sound, languages you speak, your ability to use numbers and count, and how you organize information and make decisions.
- Temporal (at the side of your head). This area helps you understand language when other people are speaking. It also helps you recognize people and objects. This part also helps you connect emotions with memories.
- Insular (deep inside of your brain, underneath your frontal, parietal and temporal lobes). This part of your brain handles taste senses. It may also help process certain types of emotions like compassion and empathy.
- Occipital (at the back of your head). This lobe manages much of your eyes’ sensory input, including the ability to see movement and colors.
A few structures that are part of your cerebrum stand out because they have very specific purposes. These are:
- Cerebral cortex: This is a thin layer of brain tissue on the surface of your cerebrum (the word “cortex” comes from the Latin word for “bark,” as in the outer layer of a tree trunk).
- Thalamus: This part of your brain acts like a relay station, sorting input from your senses and sending it to various parts of your cerebrum (except for smell, which bypasses your thalamus and goes directly to your cerebrum).
- Hypothalamus: This part of your brain (whose name means “under the thalamus”) manages functions in your nervous and endocrine systems, both of which help with controlling other systems and processes throughout your body. An example of this is how your hypothalamus helps manage your body’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.
- Hippocampus: This structure with your temporal lobe helps manage and store memories in areas of your cerebrum and fetches them when you need them.
Why are there so many parts of the brain, and why do some of them share tasks?
There’s a reason why different parts of your brain handle the same information as others. That’s because the information is interconnected in many ways. Think of it like when you see an alligator. Your brain has to process an enormous amount of information to help you know what to do around that creature.
- Sight: Your eyes see the alligator, and your brain first processes that input and starts funneling it to other areas inside of your brain. You also see how far away it is, whether or not it’s moving and how fast it’s traveling.
- Sound: You hear the alligator hissing or making any other alligator-like noises.
- Memory: Your brain starts comparing what your eyes are seeing and looks for any previous knowledge of it or anything like it. An example of this is if you’ve never seen an alligator but have seen crocodiles. You also know it’s dangerous. Your brain will file away what you’re experiencing in case that information is useful in the future.
- Language: This part of your brain offers up the name of what you see, especially if you tell others around you that there’s an alligator in front of you.
- Decision-making and judgment: You decide you don’t want to be near an alligator and that you should move away.
- Movement: Your brain sends signals to your leg muscles so you can move to a safer distance.
How big is it?
The average adult brain is between 3.5 and 4 times the volume of a regulation baseball, and your cerebrum makes up about 80% of your overall brain volume. That means your cerebrum is about 3 to 3.2 times the volume of a baseball.
How much does it weigh?
The average adult brain weighs between 2.6 pounds (lbs.) and 3.1 lbs. Your cerebrum makes up about 2 lbs. to 2.5 lbs. of that total weight.
What is it made of?
The tissue of your brain is roughly:
- 77% water.
- 11% lipids (fats).
- 8% proteins.
- 4% other.
Conditions and Disorders
What are the common conditions and disorders that affect the cerebrum?
Any condition affecting your brain can affect your cerebrum, including mental health conditions. Some major examples include:
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Concussion and traumatic brain injuries.
- Congenital disorders (conditions you have at birth, such as Menkes disease).
- Immune and inflammatory conditions (an example of this is fibromyalgia).
- Genetic disorders (conditions you have at birth that you inherited from one or both parents, such as Wilson’s disease).
- Infections (these can happen because of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi).
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Vitamin deficiencies and nutrition problems (such as low vitamin B12 levels and hypothyroidism).
Common signs or symptoms of body organ conditions?
Many symptoms are possible when you have a condition that affects your cerebrum. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Aphasia: Problems with the speech centers in your cerebrum can affect your ability to speak or understand others who are speaking.
- Ataxia: This is a loss of coordination. It can make you clumsy, causing balance problems or trouble using your hands for common tasks.
- Behavior changes and confusion.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Memory problems.
- Paralysis. This can affect various parts of your body.
- Shaking or tremors. Loss of muscle coordination can cause parts of your body, especially your hands, to shake.
- Trouble concentrating or thinking.
- Vision problems. Your cerebrum plays a role in controlling your eyes and how your brain processes what you see. Vision problems can range from blurred or distorted vision to blindness.
Common tests to check the cerebrum?
Many types of tests can help diagnose conditions that affect your brain, including your cerebrum. Common tests include:
- Blood tests (these can look for anything from immune system issues to toxins and poisons, especially certain metals like copper).
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG).
- Evoked potentials test.
- Genetic testing.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
- Sleep studies.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture).
Common treatments for the body organ?
The treatments that affect your cerebrum are as varied as the conditions and symptoms that can affect this part of your brain. They can range from medications of all kinds, from antibiotics for bacterial infections to radiation and chemotherapy for brain tumors. Treatments that help one condition can sometimes make others worse, so there’s no one-size-fits-all for treating problems that affect your cerebellum.
How can I take care of my cerebrum?
You can do several things to help maintain good brain health, including:
- Eat a balanced diet. Certain vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B12, can affect your brain, including your cerebrum, and cause major problems.
- Stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Circulatory and heart problems affect your brain, too. Stroke is an example of this, often happening because of problems in your heart. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk.
- Don’t ignore infections. Make sure to get certain types of infections, especially eye and ear infections, treated quickly. When these infections spread to your brain, they can become serious or even deadly.
- Take medications as prescribed. Certain drugs can affect your brain negatively when taken incorrectly, so taking medications as prescribed is important. If you notice new symptoms that could involve your brain, you should talk to your healthcare provider right away.
- Wear safety equipment as needed. Injuries to your head can affect your brain seriously, causing concussions or traumatic brain injuries. Wearing safety equipment during work and play activities can protect your brain from these types of injuries.
- Abstain from smoking, avoid excessive alcohol use and drug abuse. Smoking and use of tobacco products can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Excessive alcohol use is toxic to your brain and can increase your risk of stroke and memory issues, tremors and balance problems. Drug abuse can also damage your brain and put you at risk of seizures and stroke.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your cerebrum is one of the most important parts of your brain, helping with literally everything you do in your day-to-day life. While experts know a lot about how it works and its structure, there are still many unanswered questions. Fortunately, technology and advances in medical science are helping answer many of those questions, offering a new look inside the mind’s inner workings. That means healthcare providers can better diagnose and treat any conditions you have and try to prevent issues you could face in the future.
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