Encephalon: What is it? Importance, Functions and Anatomy

It refers to all parts of the central nervous system that are in the skull.

The brain includes the brain, the cerebellum and the brainstem.


The brain together with the spinal cord is called the central nervous system. It consists of two hemispheres and is the largest part of the brain. It allows, among its many functions, the reception, transmission and analysis of information, hormonal regulation and control of glands.

The cerebellum has other roles such as coordination of movement and balance . The brainstem, meanwhile, is responsible for regulating the activity of the heart and lungs. The encephalon is covered by a membrane, meninges, which has a protective role.

Encephalon functions

The encephalon is in charge of the neurochemical transaction. It generates thought, beliefs, memories, behavior and mood. It is the control center of the whole organism.

  • Coordinates the 5 senses of the human being (vision, smell, hearing, touch and taste).
  • It allows the human being to form words and communicate, understand and perform numerical operations.
  • Analyze all the stimuli, both those coming from the internal organs and those that come from the outside.
  • Determine mood, levels of consciousness and alertness.


1) The brain:

It is the largest part of the brain and the main nerve center.

The gray matter is on the outside and the white substance on the inside. Gray matter is called cerebral cortex. It is a very thin layer (only about 2 mm thick). It is divided into three functional areas: motor, sensory and association cortex.

The cerebral cortex is full of folds and grooves. These folds divide the surface of the brain into:

  • Ircunvolutions (or gyri): They are more numerous and less deep lines.
  • Fissures (or furrows): They are less numerous and deeper.

The fissures divide the brain in the lobes. Each lobe receives the name of the cranial bone below it is located (frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes). Each zone has a function.

The main fissure (large longitudinal fissure) divides the organ into two hemispheres:

  • Intuitive and creative abilities are found in the right hemisphere.
  • The logical and analytical capabilities are in the left hemisphere.

The cerebral hemispheres are united by a structure called corpus callosum that allows coordination between them and with other parts of the CNS.

The functions of the cerebral cortex are many and very important:

  • Receives and processes sensory information, except balance.
  • Control and coordinate all body parts.
  • It develops the superior nervous functions (memory, reasoning, intelligence, conscience and will).
  • Controls voluntary and conscious movement (voluntary actions).

The limbic system is another important part of the brain.

The hypothalamus is the most important, it is located between the brainstem and the brain. Their functions are:

  • Regulate the function of the endocrine system through the pituitary gland .
  • Be responsible for emotions, feelings such as love, hate, sadness, happiness, fear; and basic instincts such as suspense, thirst and sexual desire.

2) The cerebellum:

It is located below the brain in the occipital area.

Its external shape is similar to the brain. Its surface is bent and divided into two cerebellar hemispheres, although in this case another central protuberance appears, the Vermis.

The gray matter is on the outside and the white matter on the inside and has the shape of a tree.

The functions of the cerebellum are:

  • Receive and process the sensory information of balance.
  • Control balance and posture
  • Coordinate movements to ensure they are accurate and harmonious.

3) The brainstem:

It includes several parts of the brain between the spinal cord and the brain. The most important part of the brainstem is the medulla. The marrow is a bulky prolongation of the spinal cord. Its surface is smooth and uniform, white matter is on the outside and gray matter on the inside.

Nervous bundles that come from the spinal cord cross in the medulla (decussation). As a result, the left cerebral hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left side.

The marrow is responsible for several automatic and vegetative functions such as:

  • Heartbeats.
  • Breathing frequency.
  • Blood pressure.

He is also involved in some reflex acts, such as coughing or vomiting.