Chapter XIX

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It should be taken for granted that a structure as complex as the brain could hardly be covered in detail in the space of about a page, but the following will give you etymological information about some of its key features. The inferior portion of the brain is called the “brain stem,” which is composed of the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. The midbrain (a.k.a. ) is responsible for, among other things, the auditory and visual systems. The pons (Lat. “,” also called pons Varolii after Costanzo Varolio, who first described it) links the midbrain to the medulla oblongata (Lat. “lengthened ”), which is a cone of nerve tissue that connects the spinal cord to the cerebral hemispheres and that regulates respiratory and circulatory functions.

Directly posterior to the pons is the (Lat. “little brain,” dim. of ), which controls the coordination of movement and balance. Superior to the midbrain is the (Grk. “interbrain”), which contains the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus is a sort of relay device that transmits signals from the lower parts of the brain to the cerebral cortex, and the hypothalamus is responsible for the regulation of body temperature, water balance, sleep cycles, blood pressure and heart rate, endocrine activity, and more.

The main portion of the brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres, each with four lobes named according to location. The lobe (Lat. “pertaining to the forehead”) is responsible for reasoning, memory, and other high-level cognitive functions. The lobe (next to the bone of the same name, so called because it is reminiscent of a “wall”) deals with spatial and sensory awareness. The lobe (Lat. “temple [of the head]”) occupies the lower lateral space of the cerebrum and has a role in language and in processing sensory data. The lobe (Lat. “back of the head”) is located on the posterior end of the cerebrum and is the primary area for the control of the visual system. The entire cerebrum is covered with an outer layer known as the “cerebral ,” a thin layer of gray matter folded into (Grk. “rings”), which are separated by (Lat. “furrows”).

The two hemispheres of the cerebrum are separated by what is called the “longitudinal fissure,” but they are joined deep in this fissure by the corpus (Lat. “hard-skinned body”), an arched mass of white matter that links the hemispheres of the cerebrum and allows communication between them (it is also known as the “colossal ”). This structure has been the subject of much debate because of its possible connection with gender identity.