MRI scan showing the skull, brain and major arteries

You and your brain

Your brain is your body’s control centre

Your brain underpins who you are. It stores your knowledge and memories, gives you the capacity for thought and emotion, and enables you to control your body. The brain is just one part of the nervous system. Together with the spinal cord, it makes up the central nervous system.

The brain is the control centre, which sends and receives information to and from the body via the spinal cord. This involves the peripheral nervous system, which contains mixed nerves made up of sensory and motor nerve fibres. Sensory fibres carry information about what the body is sensing into the spinal cord, and motor fibres transmit signals from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands.

The autonomic nervous system (divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems) is another part of the peripheral nervous system. It controls involuntary (autonomic) functions such as heart rate, breathing and digestion.

The brain is incredibly complex and can be affected by many diseases, but we still know only a fraction of what there is to know about how it works. A better comprehension of how the brain works will enable scientists to understand mental processes and behaviour better and, eventually, to prevent or treat any problems that occur.

Lead image:

MRI scan showing the skull, brain and major arteries of a healthy woman.

Patrick Hales, UCL/Wellcome Collection CC BY


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