Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The brain controls most bodily functions, such as voluntary movements, perception of sensations, memory, awareness, and thoughts.
The cerebrum controls voluntary actions, speech, thought, and memory. The cortex, also called gray matter, is the outer part of the cerebrum and is made of neurons (nerve cells). Most of the brain's information processing is done in the cortex.
The brain is divided into 2 halves: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. These hemispheres lie on a central structure called the thalamus, which relays information between the peripheral input from the senses and the brain. Other central structures include the hypothalamus, which regulates automatic functions such as appetite and thirst, and the pituitary gland, which is partially responsible for growth, metabolism, and stress response.
The brain is connected with the brainstem (midbrain, pons, and medulla). The cerebellum is located posteriorly to the brainstem and plays a role in maintaining equilibrium and muscle tone. It also participates in complex mathematical and musical skills.
The spinal cord sends messages from the brain to different parts of the body and receives messages back. The spinal cord is surrounded by the spinal column, which is made up of stacked bones called vertebrae.