Baby Photograph

Parts of the Brain

There are four major parts of the brain: the brain stem, the cerebellum, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex.

Brain Stem Illustration

Brain stem: responsible for basic survival functions such as breathing and heartbeat.

Illustration of Cerebellum

Cerebellum: responsible for reflexive movements such as blinking the eyes.

Illustration of the Limbic System

Limbic system: responsible for processing emotions.

Illustration of the Cortex

Cerebral cortex: responsible for conscious, voluntary actions.

The brain develops in a specific sequence, from the most basic parts to the most complex ones. The brain stem begins developing first, followed by the cerebellum, the limbic system, and finally the cerebral cortex.

The fact that the limbic system develops before the cortex is important. The brain can process and store emotional experiences long before the child has the language and memory skills to consciously remember and discuss emotions. This means that an infant's brain can store and remember a frightening experience, and can use that information to react to similar events later, even if the infant cannot remember or talk about the experience.  The limbic system is the seat of positive memories as well, and stores the happy experiences that build attachments with adult caregivers.