The average human brain weighs about 3.3 pounds and represents three percent of the body’s weight. The human brain is the largest brain of all vertebrates, more than three times as big as the brain of other mammals that are of similar body size.
The largest portion of the brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres and performs all of the higher cognitive functions. The outermost layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex, which consists of four lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe and the occipital lobe.
Underneath the cerebrum lies the brainstem which is dedicated to involuntary functions such as breathing. Behind the brain stem is the cerebellum which controls motor functions such as coordination of movement and balance.
The brain contains about 100 billion microscopic cells called neurons—so many it would take over 3,000 years to count them all. While a single neuron generates only a tiny amount of electricity, all of the neurons together can generate enough electricity to power a low-wattage bulb.
The brain is protected by the skull (cranium), a protective casing made up of 22 bones that are joined together.
The brain uses 20 percent of the body’s energy, most of it to power the rapid firing of millions of neurons communicating with each other. Scientists believe that this firing and connecting of neurons is what gives rise to all of the brain’s higher functions. The rest of the energy is used to control other activities—both unconscious activities, such as heart rate, and conscious ones, such as driving a car.
Evidence shows that throughout the course of a day, we use 100 percent of our brains. All of the brain’s regions are not concurrently firing at any given moment, but most of them are continually active over a 24-hour period.
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