Brain Structure and Function

The brain is a soft, jelly-like centre of the human nervous system. It is completely enclosed in the skull and floats in a protective sea of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid supports and nourishes the brain and acts as a shock absorber for rapid head movements.

The inner surface of the skull consists of bony ridges. These ridges can lacerate and bruise the delicate surface of the brain if it is forced violently against the inside of the skull, as can happen in a road traffic accident or fall.

The brain is also protected by three layers of membrane that lie between it and the skull. If the brain is shaken about, these membranes and blood vessels can tear and bleed. If enough blood escapes, blood clots will form and can press on the brain and cause damage. There can also be damage if the blood vessels become weakened and burst, as in the case of a brain haemorrhage. Damage will also occur if the blood supply to the brain is interrupted for any reason.

The brain is made up of billions of cells, blood vessels, fluid and nerve cells called neurons. These have delicate nerve fibres that radiate from the cell body and connect to millions of other nerve cells to form highly-complex communication between different parts of the brain. It is believed that each individual neuron network connects with approximately 1,100 other neurons. Neuroscientists estimate that there are over 12 billion neurons in the brain.

There are three main areas that play a vital part in our ability to function:
1. The Cerebral Cortex
2. The Brain Stem
3. The Cerebellum