Making sense of the brain's mind-boggling complexity isn't easy. What we do know is that it's the organ that makes us human, giving people the capacity for art, language, moral judgments, and rational thought. It's also responsible for each individual's personality, memories, movements, and how we sense the world.
All this comes from a jellylike mass of fat and protein weighing about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms). It is, nevertheless, one of the body's biggest organs, consisting of some 100 billion nerve cells that not only put together thoughts and highly coordinated physical actions but regulate our unconscious body processes, such as digestion and breathing.
The brain's nerve cells are known as neurons, which make up the organ's so-called "gray matter." The neurons transmit and gather electrochemical signals that are communicated via a network of millions of nerve fibers called dendrites and axons. These are the brain's "white matter."
The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, accounting for 85 percent of the organ's weight. The distinctive, deeply wrinkled outer surface is the cerebral cortex, which consists of gray matter. Beneath this lies the white matter. It's the cerebrum that makes the human brain—and therefore humans—so formidable. Whereas animals such as elephants, dolphins, and whales have larger brains, humans have the most developed cerebrum. It's packed to capacity inside our skulls, enveloping the rest of the brain, with the deep folds cleverly maximizing the cortex area.
The cerebrum has two halves, or hemispheres. It is further divided into four regions, or lobes, in each hemisphere. The frontal lobes, located behind the forehead, are involved with speech, thought, learning, emotion, and movement. Behind them are the parietal lobes, which process sensory information such as touch, temperature, and pain. At the rear of the brain are the occipital lobes, dealing with vision. Lastly, there are the temporal lobes, near the temples, which...