How Does the Brain Work?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12384

Do you own a computer? Even if you are taking this course on a borrowed computer, you still own one! And it didn't cost a cent! Your brain is always running, so come exercise it with some brain games!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Computers have come a long way, from room-size machines to desktops to laptops to tablets and smartphones you can carry in your pocket. For thousands of years, humans have been carrying an amazing computer that never needs upgrades or charging!

A computer processes information quickly, much like a human brain.

Your brain has a few different parts that communicate with one another to ensure that your body is working properly. We will learn about the following parts of the brain: cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus.

In the meantime, if you skipped or need a refresher on any The Human Body series lesson, find them under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

Let's arrange your learning with a simple organizer.

  1. Take a sheet of paper and divide it in half, long way (or "hotdog" style).
  2. On the left side, write the names of the five parts of the brain: cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus. Skip a few spaces between each brain area name so you have enough room to complete the activity.
  3. Then, on the right side, you will write down some important facts as you learn more about these parts of the brain.

Begin with the cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, taking up around 85% of the area of the brain.

  • What do you think this large mass of brain controls?

This is the part of the brain that carries out the process of conscious thinking. It also helps control the voluntary and involuntary muscles, the muscles that move on their own and are directed by the brain. Remember that the heart is an involuntary muscle, while the muscle in your arm is voluntary.

Your memory is also stored in your cerebrum. It helps you remember what you ate for dinner last night and what you learned in preschool. The cerebrum has two halves, as seen in the image below:


Image was originally posted to Flickr by Internet Archive Book Images at It was reviewed on 27 September 2015 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the No known copyright restrictions.

The left side of the cerebrum controls the right side of your body, and the right side controls the left side of your body. Some scientists believe that the left-hand side of the brain helps with math problems, communication, and solving problems, while the right side is more involved with creative activities, such as crafting and interpreting music and other artistic media. Even though this is the largest part of your brain, it still relies on the other parts of your brain to complete some processes.

Add cerebellum to your note sheet, and keep track of what you learn next.

The cerebellum is much smaller, and is located at the back of the brain. Try standing on one foot with your hands above your head. Your balance is controlled by the cerebellum. It also helps you move your finger to your nose, helping you improve your coordination. The muscles in your body rely on your cerebellum for direction on how to perform movements, like running, skipping, and walking.

You may have to think about moving your finger to and from your nose, but your heart beats without any direction from your brain. The brain stem controls the involuntary muscles that keep you alive.

It is smaller than the cerebrum, and is located at the base of the brain. This small part of the brain has a very important job in the body. It ensures that the involuntary muscles in your body, like those responsible for digestion, breathing, and blood circulation, are working at the correct pace and at the correct time.

Now, on to the pituitary gland. This gland is located in the brain, and is very small!

This tiny gland produces chemical messages for your body. These messages are called hormones. Your hormones control the growth of body hair and the timing of puberty, the process of developing sexually. Hormones are also responsible for keeping the amount of sugar in your blood stable and making sure you have enough water in your body.

The last part of the brain is the hypothalamus. It is located in the middle of your brain.

The hypothalamus keeps you from overheating and freezing.

  • Have you ever been really cold?
  • How did your body respond?

You probably started shivering. This action is caused by direction from the hypothalamus. Your temperature should be close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Try taking your temperature with a thermometer.

  • What is your body temperature?

If it is higher than 98.6 degrees, you might be running a fever! When you overheat, your body responds by sweating to cool down.

  • Have you ever been so cold that you began to shiver?

Shivering is a process that actually warms your body by moving the muscles quickly!

Now, you have learned about the five parts of the brain: the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus. Each part has a specific function, responsible for body movement, problem-solving, and temperature regulation, to name a few.

The parts of the brain have to communicate with nerve cells in the body to make sure that messages are passed to all areas of the body. Nerve cells send messages about the environment, like when it gets too hot or too cold. They help you recognize danger and make memories.

The brain uses nerve cells located throughout the body to keep you alive and healthy! The five parts of the brain rely on information from these nerve cells to keep body processes working. The cerebrum takes information and moves it to long-term storage. The cerebellum uses nerve cells to keep your balance, and the brain stem controls involuntary processes like breathing and circulation. The pituitary gland uses hormones to keep the body regulated, while the hypothalamus ensures that the body's temperature stays stable.

Discuss what you have learned about each part of the brain with a parent or teacher.

Write down three questions that you have about the brain before moving to the Got It? section, where you will review the parts of the brain.

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