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Overview of the cerebrum

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Understand the structure of the cerebrum.
  2. Identify the six lobes of the cerebrum.
  3. Become familiar with the cerebral cortex and its areas.
  4. Name some cerebral white matter tracts.

Browse atlas

The brain consists of three main parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brainstem. The cerebrum is organized into two hemispheres that are connected by a large bundle of white matter tissue called the corpus callosum. The outer surface of the cerebrum exhibits many elevated ridges of tissue called gyri, that are separated by grooves called sulci. The gyri and sulci increase the surface area of the cerebrum, providing it with its characteristic convoluted appearance.

Each hemisphere of the cerebrum contains six lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital, insular and limbic. The insular lobe is located internal to the lateral sulcus and is therefore not visible superficially. It is covered by portions of the parietal, temporal and frontal lobes which are collectively referred to as the operculum (lit. ‘a covering’).

The cerebral cortex forms the surface of each hemisphere; it is composed of gray matter and is the most complex part of the cerebrum. Functionally, it can be divided into three general areas:

  • Primary motor area, which is involved in the planning and execution of movement;
  • Primary sensory areas, which receive and process sensory input;
  • Association area, which serve to integrate information from several structures/areas.

Deep to the cerebral cortex (i.e. gray matter containing neuronal cell bodies) is the cerebral white matter which is composed of axons of neurons reaching between different areas of the brain. Most of these nerve fibers are surrounded by a type of fatty sheath/envelope called myelin which gives the white matter its color. While the gray matter facilitates information processing, the white matter serves the important role of function of enabling information transfer.

Study all of these structures in further detail in the image galleries below:

Take a quiz

Take the following quiz to test what you already know about the main lobes and main gyri/sulci of the cerebrum.

Now that you have tested your knowledge on the lobes of the cerebrum, why do you not challenge yourself and test your knowledge on the location of the functional areas of the cerebrum?

Try out our fully customisable quiz below and tailor it to your own needs by creating your own selection of structures to be quizzed on!


Key facts about the lobes of the cerebrum
Frontal lobe Anterior to central sulcus, superior to lateral sulcus
Major gyri: Precentral gyrus, superior, middle, inferior frontal gyri

Control of voluntary movement, involved in attention, short term memory tasks, motivation, planning, speech
Parietal lobe Posterior to the central sulcus
Major gyri/areas: postcentral gyrus, superior parietal lobule, inferior parietal lobule (angular gyrus)

Processing of somatosensory input (touch, pain, pressure and temperature), integration of other sensory input (taste, hearing, sight, and smell), visuospatial mapping and attention, processing language and numerical relationships
Temporal lobe Lateral surface of cerebrum, inferior to lateral sulcus
Main gyri: Superior, middle, inferior temporal gyri

Decoding sensory input (visual and auditory) into derived meanings for retention of visual memory and language comprehension
Occipital lobe Posterior to parietal/temporal lobes
Main gyri: occipital gyri

Center for visual processing
Insular lobe Deep to temporal/parietal/frontal lobes
Main gyri: Long/short gyri of insula

Processing and integration of taste sensation, visceral and pain sensation and vestibular functions
Limbic lobe Medial surface of each hemisphere, surrounding corpus callosum
Main gyri: paraterminal, cingulate, parahippocampal gyri

Modulation of emotions, modulation of visceral and autonomic functions, learning, memory
Key facts about the motor, sensory and association areas
Primary motor area Precentral gyrus (frontal lobe) – planning and execution of movement
Primary somatosensory area Postcentral gyrus (parietal lobe) – processing of somatic sensory input
Primary visual area Occipital lobe – processing of visual input
Primary auditory area Superior parietal lobule – processing of auditory input
Olfactory area Limbic/medial temporal lobes – processing of olfactory input
Gustatory area Insular/parietal lobes – processing of taste stimuli
Vestibular areas Parietal/temporal lobes – equilibrium and balance
Premotor area Anterior to primary motor cortex – complex movement
Somatosensory association area Posterior to primary somatosensory cortex – integration of somatic sensory information
Visual association area Anterior part of occipital lobe, posterior parts of parietal/temporal lobes – spatial orientation, perception of depth, location, movement and velocity of objects in space
temporal association area
Posterior parts of parietal/occipital/temporal lobes –interpretation of signals from surrounding somatosensory, visual and auditory areas (e.g. visuospatial awareness, visual language (reading), naming of objects), learning of fine motor skills
Wernicke’s area Posterolateral part temporal lobe (usually left – language (comprehension)
Temporal association area Anterior pole of temporal lobe / processes of recognition/association, behavior, emotions, and motivation
Prefrontal area Anterior frontal – higher mental functions, behavior, personality
Frontal eye fields Anterior to premotor cortex – eye movements
Broca’s area Inferolateral frontal lobe (usually left hemisphere) – language (production/word formation)
Limbic association area Anterior pole of temporal lobe, ventral part of frontal lobe, cingulate gyrus – processes of recognition/association, behavior, emotions, and motivation

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