What Is the Cerebrum? A Guide to Its Anatomy and Functions

Medically Reviewed By Heidi Moawad, M.D.
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The cerebrum performs many functions, including enabling speech, learning, and voluntary movement. It is also the center of emotion, imagination, creativity, and personality. The cerebrum is the largest, uppermost section of the brain. It comprises two halves or hemispheres. Each hemisphere houses a frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobe.

If a person injures their cerebrum, they may experience movement issues and other disabilities.

This article explores the cerebrum, including its parts and various functions. It also discusses the effects of a cerebral injury on the body.

What is the anatomy of the cerebrum?

there is a model of a brain against a blue background
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The cerebrum is the largest, topmost part of the brain. It consists of two hemispheres separated by a central fissure.

Each hemisphere controls processes on opposite sides of the body. This means the right hemisphere controls movement, sensation, and visual fields on the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls these processes on the right side of the body.

Also, each hemisphere specializes in specific functions. For example, the left hemisphere primarily controls speech, learning, and language. On the other hand, the right hemisphere is in charge of spatial processing or 3D thinking.

Just beneath the cerebrum are the cerebellum and the brain stem. 

These are two other parts of the brain that coordinate with each other and the cerebrum to enable voluntary actions.

Internal structures: Gray and white matter

The cerebrum has two layers, namely: 

  • Gray matter: Also called the cerebral cortex, gray matter is the topmost layer of the cerebrum. It consists of ridges, also called gyri, and folds, also called sulci. The role of gray matter is to help with information processing functions, such as thought and judgment.
  • White matter: Also called the subcortical region, white matter sits in the deeper tissues of the brain. It comprises nerve fibers, also called axons, and nerve fiber sheaths, also known as myelin. It contains pathways for transmitting nerve signals to and from the gray matter.

External structures: Sulci and gyri 

The sulci and gyri give the brain its characteristic wrinkled appearance. These are the various types of sulci and gyri:

  • Central sulcus: This is the valley between the frontal lobe and the parietal lobe.
  • Lateral sulcus: This separates the temporal lobe from the frontal and parietal lobes.
  • Precentral gyrus: This is a ridge in front of the central sulcus.
  • Postcentral gyrus: This is a ridge behind the central sulcus. 
  • Superior temporal gyrus: This ridge lies beneath the lateral sulcus.

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What are the cerebral lobes?

The cerebral cortex of the cerebrum contains four lobes. Each lobe is in a different part of the brain and performs a specific function.

Here is an overview of the lobes and their functions:

Frontal lobe

As its name suggests, the frontal lobe sits at the front of the brain. It consists of a part near the front of the skull and a posterior part near the parietal lobe.

The part near the front plays a role in your personality and in your ability to make decisions.

The posterior part helps you perform voluntary actions, such as movement.

Parietal lobe

The parietal lobe is in the middle of your brain. Its key function involves helping you process stimuli and sensory information, such as pain, taste, and temperature.

Temporal lobe

The temporal lobe is at the sides of the brain.

It helps you understand language, retain memories, and appreciate musical rhythm.

Occipital lobe

The occipital lobe resides at the rear end of the brain. It processes information from your eyes, including light and color.

What are the cerebral arteries?

To function properly, the brain must receive a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood — and arteries make that possible.

There are three main cerebral arteries that supply blood to the brain. They include:

  • Anterior cerebral arteries: These supply blood to the front areas of the brain, including the frontal lobe and parts of the parietal lobe. Anterior arteries are branches of the internal carotid, a major artery that supplies multiple parts of the brain with oxygen-rich blood.
  • Middle cerebral arteries: These supply blood to the lateral areas of the brain, including the temporal lobe. Middle arteries are also branches of the internal carotid.
  • Posterior cerebral arteries: These supply blood to the rear areas of the brain and brain stem. They originate from a large blood vessel known as the basilar artery.

What is the difference between the cerebrum and the cerebellum?

The cerebellum is not the same as the cerebrum.

The cerebellum is a smaller part of the brain beneath the cerebrum. It works with the cerebrum and the brain stem to facilitate functions such as posture and balance. It also transmits electrical nerve signals to enable muscle control.

What is a cerebrovascular accident?

As the cerebrum is responsible for several movement and sensory functions, an injury to the area can result in severe complications.

The complication that may occur will depend on the location and severity of the injury. 

One common cause of injury to the cerebrum is stroke.

Stroke is a serious condition that kills cerebral tissues and causes a loss of brain function. It occurs when a blood clot stops the flow of oxygen to the brain or when a blood vessel ruptures.

The effects of stroke on the body can include partial paralysis, vision loss, and speaking difficulties.

Learn more about stroke and what to do here.

Summary

The cerebrum is the largest, uppermost section of the brain. It contains the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.

Together, these lobes control several functions in the body, including vision, speech, learning, imagination, and personality.

The cerebrum is also made up of two layers: gray matter and white matter.

Gray matter is the topmost layer of the cerebrum. It helps with information processing.

White matter, on the other hand, resides in the deeper parts of the cerebrum. It is a pathway for transmitting nerve signals.

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Medical Reviewer: Heidi Moawad, M.D.
Last Review Date: 2022 May 30
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