Project Description

Brain Functions

Robert P. Lehr, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine,
Southern Illinois University

In traumatic brain injury the brain may be injured in a specific location or the injury may be diffused to many different parts of the brain. It is this indefinite nature of brain injury that makes treatment unique for each individual patient. In the past 20 years, a great deal has been learned about brain function, and we learn more every day. We can make guesses about the nature of the problems an individual may have from knowing the location of a lesion. Diagnostic procedures such as CT scans and MRIs can also provide information about a brain injury.

As rehabilitation specialists, however, we can also learn about an injury by observing the day-to-day activities of the patient. All the activities we perform each day, whether physical or mental, are directed by different parts of our brains. It is important that you become familiar with brain function to better understand how therapies created by rehabilitation professionals help brain injured patients. In order for you to better understand how the rehabilitation process works, we will guide you through the different parts of the brain and indicate some of the functions and problems resulting from injury.

The brain has many parts including the cerebral cortex, brain stem, and cerebellum. By listing some of the functions of each part of the brain, we will provide an overview of what problems occur after injury to these parts. It is important to understand that the brain functions as a whole by interrelating its component parts. The injury may only disrupt a particular step of an activity that occurs in a specific part of the brain. The interruption of that activity at any particular step or out of sequence can reveal the problems associated with the injury. Below is a list of functions and deficits or problems revealed when injury occurs at particular locations. The terms in parenthesis are the professional terms used to describe the deficit.

Obtaining a general understanding of the brain and its functions is important to understanding the rehabilitation process. It is very important, however, to understand that the rehabilitation professional is concerned with the whole person. The identification of individual problems gives the rehabilitation team areas in which to focus treatment plans. All of these plans are designed to work toward the rehabilitation of the whole person. Each problem area affects other areas. Many times, resolving one problem has a major impact on other problems. For example, re-establishing postural balance and eliminating dizziness greatly enhances concentration and attention, which allows for improved cognition and problem solving.

Please refer to the Brain Map for more details and related references.  This article and map courtesy of CNS.

Brain Functions

Frontal Lobe
Parietal Lobe
Occipital Lobes
Temporal Lobes
Brain Stem