Understanding our brain anatomy basics can be helpful in the world of work. Some people consider the brain to be comprised of three main parts: the hindbrain, the midbrain and the forebrain. Each part has a different role to play in overseeing how we think and feel, thus how we behave and work.  

Summary by The World of Work Project

Brain Anatomy Basics

From a highly simplistic perspective the brain can be thought of as having three main parts, segregated by how old they are evolutionarily and the function they play.

A diagram showing the main parts of the brain per brain anatomy basic
The colors don’t reflect the three main parts exactly, but you get the idea.

The Hindbrain

The hindbrain (or “root brain”) includes the brain stem and is the oldest part of our brains. It includes the Medulla Oblongata, Pons and the Cerebellum.

The hindbrain is connected directly to the spinal cord and governs vital, but primitive, life functions like breathing, digestion and circulation as well as receiving sensory input and managing muscle coordination.  All vertebrates, including reptiles, have a “hind-brain”.

The Midbrain

The midbrain is located between the hindbrain and forebrain. It’s essentially a relay station passing information between the central nervous system and the forebrain.

The Forebrain

The forebrain is the most recently evolved part of our brains and comes in two parts. The lower part, the diencephalon, is also known as the limbic system and is primarily responsible for our emotions and our memories. The upper part of the forebrain, the telencephalon, includes the cerebrum and neo-cortex and is responsible for our higher brain functions such as thinking, planning and parts of speech.

Only a few other highly evolved animals such as primates and dolphins have similar forebrains to humans.

a diagram of the brain showing brain anatomy basic
Brains are complex, even when simplified like this.

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Learning More

The brain is a fascinating thing and hugely affects our working experiences. Oxytocin and Adrenaline, which contributes to our fight or flight response, might also be interesting to learn more about.

These factors all affect our emotions in the world of work. We don’t all have the same levels of emotions. Alexithymia is the inability to feel, process or understand emotions. Being aware of our emotions is sometimes known as metamood. Learning more about our brain can help increase our emotional intelligence.

You can listen to our introductory podcast on emotional intelligence below:

The World of Work Project View

As we’re sure you can tell from the simplicity of this post, we’re not experts in this field at all! Despite our lack of knowledge, we’re interested in brain anatomy basics.

While there is absolutely no need to understand neuro-science to be effective in your career (unless you’re a doctor!), a basic understanding of where our thoughts and emotions come from may help individuals improve their emotional intelligence, respond to and manage their emotions, empathize and work well with with others and respond well in difficult, emotional situations.

The key take away points regarding the anatomy of the brain are that we have two main areas that affect our thinking. The limbic part of our brain supports our emotional thought processes, while the neo-cortex supports our more rational, calculated and planned efforts at thinking.

In many instances we strive to use the more rational tools that we have, but this often isn’t easy as the more emotional side of our brain often has more power over how we think and act than we might like.

There is one last thing we’d like to say on this though, which is that our collective understanding of the brain continues to evolve rapidly. Things that we knew a few years ago, we now know to be untrue, and vice versa. And this holds not just for the human brain, but also for animal brains.

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This post is based on general reading and there are no specific references for it.

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