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Facts About the Brain and Spinal Cord

Originally published on November 10, 2009
Most recently updated on April 10, 2013

As you read this Web site, you do many things simultaneously. Your eyes are moving from left to right; you are holding the computer mouse and keyboard. You may be shifting in your chair. You may be aware of others in the room. You could also be listening to music and drinking a cup of tea or coffee, feeling the warmth of the cup in your hand. At the same time, you are thinking about what you are reading, filing away a few things in your mind for later consideration, maybe making a mental note to talk to your child’s doctor about something. Without a doubt, you are feeling many emotions.

What allows you to do all these things, all at the same time, is your brain, assisted by its link to the rest of the body, the brainstem and spinal cord. The brain is the control center of the body and mind, governing everything from movement, sensation, and speech to thought, emotion, and memory. Normal heartbeat, blood pressure, and other organ functions depend on the brain working properly. The spinal cord, in effect, is an extension of the brain, transmitting messages to and from the brain. It’s like a relay station in an intricate, ordered, and continual pattern of electrical traffic.

Because the brain is divided into regions that control specific functions throughout the body, a tumor in a particular area of the brain is likely to have an impact on the actions it governs. That’s why, as you seek to learn more about your child’s tumor and its impact on his or her health and behavior, you need to know something about the brain’s makeup and structure, as well as the terminology medical people use. We discuss these structures separately to help you better understand them, but they are really all interconnected and intertwined, working together at all times.

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