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Hello Brain • Brain Health
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Lobes divide up the labour

Lobes divide up the labour

Your brain has a lot of work to do, so it has to be organised. And when it comes to higher-level functions –  such as thinking, decision-making, understanding and speaking language, etc. – the labour generally gets divided up among different sections of the cerebral cortex, that groovy blanket of outermost tissue that sits just inside your skull.

Scientists usually divide that cortex into lobes, large areas of the brain that connect with others and work together, but which have their own specialist activities. There are four different lobes in each side of the brain.

The frontal lobes are, as the name suggests, towards the front, so they sit just beneath your forehead. They are like a master control unit, that is involved in planning, attention and decision-making and they help to integrate the information coming from other parts of the brain. If you didn't have working frontal lobes, you would behave on impulse, which might occasionally be fun but overall it could be dangerous and it would likely make social relationships more difficult.

The parietal lobes, which sit just below the top of your head, are all about processing information coming in from the senses and linking them with memories or the ability to understand what they mean. When you smell or taste a meal and it reminds you of a holiday you had, or if you read words on a page and make sense of them, you have your parietal lobes to thank for making those connections.

The occipital lobes are literally the eyes in the back of your head, because they sort out your vision. When light enters your eyes, the information travels to the occipital lobes at the rear of your brain and the cortex located there processes the information to turn it into something that you can understand.

The temporal lobes run along the sides of your head and play a role in many functions including language and the processing of sound and visual information. They are also well connected with the part of the brain that plays an important role in memory, which is the hippocampus.

Together, these lobes form what is called the forebrain, which works in concert with the other 'older' parts of the brain that lie deeper within the organ, the mid-brain and the hind-brain, to keep you living and functioning.Illustration: Brain basics

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