The cerebrum is the uppermost part of the brain. It contains two hemispheres split by a central fissure.

The cerebrum itself contains the major lobes of the brain and is responsible for receiving and giving meaning to information from the sense organs, as well as controlling the body.

The cerebrum does not make up the entire brain, however. The cerebellum and brainstem sit below the cerebrum and work alongside it to control the voluntary actions in the body.

Keep reading to learn more about the cerebrum, including its various elements and how they work together.

The interactive Bodymap below shows the brain, and the cerebrum within in. Click on it to learn more about the brain and its various parts.

The cerebrum, or telencephalon, is the large upper part of the brain. It is divided into two hemispheres. In the human skull, the cerebrum sits atop the brainstem, with the cerebellum underneath the rear portion.

The cerebrum itself has a few divisions, which neuroscientists generally use to classify the functions of the different areas.

The sections below will describe these divisions in more detail.

Cerebral cortex

The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the cerebrum, or its gray matter. In humans, this gray matter has an uneven surface with many folds. Ridges called gyri and valleys, or folds, called sulci help increase the surface area of the cerebral cortex.

The cerebral cortex also houses the four major lobes:

  • the frontal lobe
  • the parietal lobe
  • the occipital lobe
  • the temporal lobe

These lobes each have two sections, divided by the central fissure in the brain.

As there are no other distinct separations in the brain, neuroscientists divide the lobes roughly based on the major folds in the area.

Major folds include the:

  • Central sulcus: This divides the frontal and parietal lobes.
  • Precentral gyrus: This is a ridge just in front of the central sulcus, which neuroscientists use to identify the primary motor cortex.
  • Postcentral gyrus: This is a ridge just behind the central sulcus, which neuroscientists use to identify the primary somatosensory cortex.
  • Lateral sulcus: This divides the temporal lobe from the frontal and parietal lobes.
  • Superior temporal gyrus: This is a ridge below the lateral sulcus, where the brain first receives and processes information.

A fifth lobe, called the insular lobe, is located within the lateral sulcus.

White matter

Beneath the cerebral cortex lie the deeper structures, often known as white matter. This includes connecting structures such as nerve fibers called axons, which help connect and transmit to various areas of the cerebral cortex.

Hemispheres

A fissure divides the cerebrum into right and left hemispheres. Each hemisphere controls processes on the contralateral side of the body.

This means, in general, that the right side of the brain receives and controls signals from the left side of the body, and that the left side of the brain receives and controls signals from the right side of the body.

Also, although both hemispheres control many functions, some functions occur predominantly in one or the other.

For example, in general, the left hemisphere controls functions such as speech, writing, and mathematics. The right hemisphere, in general, controls aspects of creativity, such as art and musical skills.

Other structures

The following are some other structures located within the cerebrum.

Arteries

The cerebrum also contains different sets of arteries to supply the brain with blood, separated into the anterior, middle, and posterior branches. Each branch helps supply blood to the different regions of the brain.

Olfactory bulb

The olfactory bulb lies beneath the frontal lobe and delivers information directly to the cortex for interpretation.

Amygdala

The amygdala is a major component of the limbic system. It controls automatic reactions, such as the fight-or-flight response, in humans.

Hippocampus

A structure within the temporal lobe, the hippocampus plays a role in learning and memory.

The cerebrum itself houses the four major lobes, and each lobe as its own set of functions. So although the cerebrum as a whole controls numerous functions in the body, this is mainly due to the function of each individual lobe and the interplay between them.

In general, the cerebrum controls all voluntary actions. It is also the control center for:

  • sensory processing
  • emotional control
  • motor control
  • personality
  • learning
  • problem solving
  • language and speech
  • visual information
  • spatial information
  • cognition and higher thought
  • imagination
  • creativity
  • music interpretation

Areas in the cerebrum are responsible for receiving and interpreting much of the physical world around the body.

The sections below will detail which lobe controls which processes.

Frontal lobe

  • speech
  • behavior and personality
  • emotions
  • body movement
  • intelligence and self-awareness

Parietal lobe

  • language and symbol use
  • visual perception
  • sense of touch, pressure, and pain
  • giving meaning to signals from other sensory information

Temporal lobe

  • memory
  • hearing
  • understanding language
  • organization and patterns

Occipital lobe

  • light
  • color
  • movement
  • spatial orientation

Insular lobe

  • homeostasis
  • compassion and empathy
  • self-awareness
  • cognitive function
  • social experience

Although the cerebrum and cerebellum sound similar, they have different functions within the brain.

The cerebellum sits below the cerebrum. It works directly with the structures in the cerebrum to coordinate functions such as posture and balance. It also sends signals to control muscle movements.

Sustaining damage to the cerebellum may therefore result in balance or gait difficulties.

Learn more about the cerebellum here.

Because the cerebrum makes up much of the brain and controls all voluntary actions, sustaining damage to this area may cause widespread and varying consequences.

Essentially, any condition affecting the brain may cause dysfunction in one or more areas of the cerebrum.

The type and extent of the damage will vary based on its severity and where exactly in the brain it occurs. Damage from incidents such as an ischemic stroke may occur anywhere in the brain and can cause lasting dysfunction in the area.

Other causes of damage to the cerebrum include accidents, injuries, or other chronic issues that cause atrophy or damage in the brain tissue.

The cerebrum is a major part of the brain. It contains two hemispheres, and each has four major lobes. The cerebrum is responsible for voluntary actions as well as generating thought.

Different lobes in the cerebrum will receive and control different bodily functions, though the lobes also work together to carry out many functions.

Dysfunction may occur in one or more areas due to injury or a chronic health condition.

The cerebrum is not the entire brain itself. Other structures, such as the cerebellum and brainstem, play roles in the various functions of the brain as a whole.