Guide to Basic Brain Anatomy: Learn the Parts of the Brain

Guide to Basic Brain Anatomy: Learn the Parts of the Brain
Page content

When learning about the basic anatomy of the brain, one of the hardest parts is getting a hang of the anatomical terminology. This study guide will go over each terminology group, as well as review the locations of the major parts of the brain that were discussed in the lesson plan for basic brain anatomy.

Superior Vs. Inferior

The first group of anatomical terminology is superior and inferior. Think about what each word means: superior means best, and inferior means worse. Use this to remember what location they are referring to: superior is at the top of the head, while inferior is at the bottom of the head. Visual imagery can help with remembering: draw an arrow up and down along side a brain and label where each term goes.

Anterior Vs. Posterior

The second group of anatomical terminology is anterior and posterior. Once again, think about what each word means: anterior means front, and posterior means back. Use this to remember what location they are referring to: anterior is at the forehead, while posterior is at the back of the head. Be careful not to confuse these terms with superior and inferior. When using visual model, take an image of the brain from the side (where you see all four lobes of the brain) and label accordingly.

Anterior and Posterior Brain Example

One thing to note when studying is that anterior and posterior have synonyms: ventral also refers to the front of the head, and dorsal also refers to the back of the head. Your teacher may ask questions that interchange these words, so make sure you know both sets. To help, write “ventral” and “dorsal” alongside “anterior” and “posterior” in your diagram.

Medial Vs. Lateral

Medial and Lateral Brain Example

The last group of anatomical terminology in basic brain anatomy is medial and lateral. These terms can be more difficult to remember, as the anatomy lesson has not covered the internal structures of the brain. But learning them now will give you a head start for that lesson. Medial and lateral refer to an invisible line that is drawn through the brain. Medial means towards the center of the brain, while lateral means towards the side of the brain. When drawing a diagram, medial would be drawn with two arrows pointing at each other, and lateral would be drawn with two arrows pointing away from each other.

Remembering the Parts of the Brain

Now that we have gone over the terminology used in brain anatomy, let’s review the major parts of the brain. The brain can be divided up into three major structures: the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, and is divided into two halves: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. Each hemisphere has four lobes:

  • Frontal lobe: front-most lobe, found near the forehead
  • Parietal lobe: behind the frontal lobe, near the top of the head
  • Temporal lobe: behind the frontal lobe, near the bottom of the head around the ears
  • Occipital lobe: back-most lobe

The cerebellum is the second largest part of the brain, found underneath the occipital lobe. It looks different from the cerebrum — it has more ridges, and looks like it can be separated from the rest of the brain. The last part of the brain, the brain stem, touches the temporal lobe and cerebellum.

Using the color coded brain image, mark each section accordingly:

Blank Brain Lobe Diagram

  • Red: Frontal
  • Orange: Parietal
  • Green: Temporal
  • Yellow: Occipital
  • Blue: Cerebellum
  • Black: Brain Stem

The Parts of the Brain

After learning the basic anatomy of the brain, the next step is to associate the four lobes of the brain, cerebellum and brain stem to the different functions. This study guide will go over the various functions of the brain that were covered in the brain function lesson plan. Besides writing down a list of the functions, try writing them alongside a picture of the brain, to help remember which lobe is responsible for which action.

Labeled Lobes of the Brain

Frontal Lobe

Let’s start with the frontal lobe. As you will remember from the basic anatomy study guide, the frontal lobe is the front-most part of the brain. It is also the most diverse lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe is highly involved in cognitive functions, such as:

  • Working memory
  • Judgment, planning, problem solving and reasoning

The frontal lobe, on the left hemisphere, is also the location of Broca’s area. This is a region for language, involved in forming coherent words and sentences. Part of the motor cortex is also in the frontal lobe. In addition, the frontal lobe does have some involvement in emotions.

Parietal Lobe

The next lobe is the parietal lobe, which is behind the frontal lobe located toward the top of the head. The sensory cortex is located in the parietal lobe, which receives stimuli regarding:

  • Temperature
  • Pain
  • Pressure
  • Touch

Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe is located behind the frontal lobe and below the parietal lobe. The main thing to remember about the temporal lobe is that it is involved in memory, as it contains the hippocampus. The temporal lobe also contains a language section in the left hemisphere: it is called Wernicke’s area, which is involved in understanding language. The other main function of the temporal lobe is hearing.

Occipital Lobe

The last lobe of the cerebrum is the occipital lobe, which is located at the back of the head. The occipital lobe’s main function is vision, which includes the visual-perception system. The occipital lobe can also discern color and movement.


The cerebellum is located toward the base of the brain above the brain stem and looks different from the rest of the brain. The main functions of the cerebellum are the motor skills, such as:

  • Coordination
  • Voluntary motor movement coordination
  • Balance
  • Muscle tone

Brain Stem

The brainstem is connected to the spinal cord and is located in front of the cerebellum. The brainstem passes signals between the cerebral cortex and the rest of the body. Remember, the cerebellum is separate from the cerebrum.

Although the brain stem is the small, it is responsible for many of the involuntary actions that are needed to live.

This is just the beginning of learning how the brain works!


This post is part of the series: All About the Human Brain

Study up on the human brain, from basic anatomy to neurotransmitters and left vs. right brain thinking. Our science study guides provide all the hints you need to score high on your next test!

  1. Study Guide for Left and Right Brain Learning
  2. Study Guide for the Parts of the Brain
  3. Study Guide for the Function and Structure of Neurons
  4. Study Guide for the Neurotransmitters in the Brain
  5. Understanding Synapses of the Brain