Finding your way around

An annotated guide to the brain

Remember, many simple and complex psychological functions are mediated by multiple brain regions and – at the same time – a single brain area may control many psychological functions.

Annotated image of the brain

Illustration by Bret Syfert

  1. Cortex: The thin, folded structure on the outside surface of the brain.
  2. Cerebral hemispheres: The two halves of the brain, each of which controls and receives information from the opposite side of the body. 
  3. Pituitary gland: The ‘master gland’ of the body, which releases hormones that control growth, blood pressure, the stress response and the function of the sex organs.
  4. Substantia nigra: The ‘black substance’ contains cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and the pigment melatonin, giving it a black appearance.
  5. Hypothalamus: The interface between the brain and pituitary gland. It controls the production and release of hormones.
  6. Spinal cord: A large bundle of millions of nerve fibres and neuronal cells, which carries information back and forth between the brain and the body.
  7. Medulla oblongata: Controls vital involuntary functions such as breathing and heart rate.
  8. Cerebellum: The ‘little brain’ that controls balance and coordinates movements. It’s normally required for learning motor skills, such as riding a bike, and is involved in thought processes.
  9. Cranial nerve nuclei: Clusters of neurons in the brain stem. Their axons form the cranial nerves.


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Inside the Brain’ in January 2013 and reviewed and updated in November 2017.

Inside the Brain
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development