Anatomy Activities

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Week 1 - Brain Anatomy Tutorial Session 

Visit This will take you to an online tool developed by the cold spring harbor laboratory to allow people to explore neuroanatomy. 

3-D Brain. The G2C Brain is an interactive 3-D model of the brain, with 29 structures that can be rotated in three-dimensional space. Each structure has information on brain disorders, brain damage, case studies, and links to modern neuroscience research. Ideal for students, researchers, and educators in psychology and biology.

In a previous lecture we provided an overview of the basic anatomy of the human brain. As we will spend the semester exploring the brain in greater detail, let’s begin this journey by familiarizing ourselves visually view a few basic brain regions. Follow this link to open an interactive 3D Brain. Explore the structures listed below, then answer the questions to test your knowledge. Once you have finished with that, have a go at the "bonus questions" link below. The questions are not assessed and are open book. They are intended to help you become  more familiar with brain anatomy and anatomical terminology. 

1. The Whole Brain (Overview)

Use the cursors to rotate the brain. Before you use the "view labels" button, test yourself if you remember the names of the cortical lobes colored in green, blue, red and orange correctly. 

Take a look underneath. Can you spot the pituitary gland? And the pons?

As you rotate the brain around the vertical axis the right hemisphere becomes transparent so you can see structures inside. Do you remember any of their names? (Don't worry if you don't, we are still at the beginning of the course, but testing yourself often has been shown to aid learning. Even if you don't do terribly well at the self tests ?)

Also note that inside the central fissure there is a part of cortex that in not colored red. It isn't part of the four "lobes". This is the cingulate cortex. There is also an "insular" cortex, tucked away in a fold underneath the frontal lobe. The cingulate and insular lobes are thought to play important roles in the generation and processing of emotions and they are closely associated with the limbic system.  So when the lecturer told you the cerebral cortex consists of four lobes, that was a bit of a simplification. You will encounter this a lot. Learn the simple story first, then learn that there is a bit more to it.

Read through the explanatory text below the rotating brain. There is a long list of names of substructures. Read through them. Any you recognize from the lectures? Many of those you will not have learnt about yet. Don't worry about it. For now, just familiarize yourself with the words, we will attach meanings to them later. 

2. Brainstem and Pons

Switch to the "Brain Stem" view at the selector at the top, review the anatomica labels, then turn to the "Pons" subsection and read the accompanying text. Note that "pons" is the latin word for "bridge". The pons is literally the "bridge" that connects the cerebellum to the rest of the brain, and much of it is made up of white matter "cables" connecting to the cerebellum via the "cerebellar peduncles". 

If you read the description though, you will see other importrant functions of the pons. What are they. 

The text also says that the pons is where auditory information enters the brain. How can that be? The pons isn't an ear, is it?

Well, that part is perhaps a bit misleading. Look carefully at the image of the pons from beneath. at the edge of the pons you will see a number of string like structures sticking out. These are some of the so called "cranial nerves", nerve strands that connect to the face, the tongue, some even to your inner organs. One of these cranial nerve is the auditory (or vestibulo-cochlear) nerve, which connects the ear to the brain. We will have a lecture on the neuroscience of hearing, and it won't mention the pons much at all. 

3. Basal Ganglia

Switch to the "Basal Ganglia" view and familiarize yourself with the different parts of the basal ganglia. We will have a lot to say about the basal ganglia toward the end of the course. The basal ganglia are brain systems specialized in sensing whether the current situation is "rewarding" (that is,, pleasurable or positive), and in predicting whether the way situation is evolving is likely to be rewarding in the near future. They can also use this information to shape our habits and preferences. When our basal gangila work well, they can turn us into efficient optimizers, allowing us to learn complex skills in the pursuit of rewarding goals. If they malfunction we can develop all sorts of more or less serious disorders, from ticks to compulsions and obsessions to drug or gambling addiction. We will study all this in detail later in the this course.

Name the sections of the Basal Ganglia. Do you recall what the word “ganglia” refers to? 

4. Frontal Lobe

Explore the different sections of the frontal lobe and read the explanatory text. The text describes the frontal lobes as being important in "cognitive" functions (that is, to do with "thinking", rather than, say, "sensing"), but I like to think of it as mostly "extended motor cortex". Am I being silly to think that? Are there functions of the frontal lobe that have nothing to do with moving at all? Of course, the so called prefrontal cortex also does things such as short term memory, but if you bear in mind that certain forms of short term memory are often referred to as "working memory" then maybe you can see that it too plays a role in motor function? 

(OK, there is one thing that happens in the frontal cortex for which it is quite far fetched to call it "motor related". Can you work out which one that is?)

6. Limbic System

Explore the different sections of the frontal lobe and read the explanatory text. The limbic system comprises several brain structures that are collectively responsible for regulation of mood, memory, and arousal. Give examples parts of the limbic system and the functions that each part is most associated with. (Be aware that grouping together the various structures of the limbic system, from amygdala to cingulate gyrus, into a single system is an old and popular idea, but it is not without its critics. What we do know for certain is that disturbances of limbic structures can result in disturbances of mood or emotion processing, but to what extent it makes sense to think of them as an integrated "system" that collectively "produces or processes emotions" is becoming increasingly controversial.)

Bonus questions:

Try the Comparative Anatomy Puzzles on the next pages (link here below right).