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Tour Your Brain

What’s the difference between consciousness, sleep, and unconsciousness?
Explore the brain to find out what anesthesia researchers have learned.

Explore

Click on all parts of the brain
to find out how they impact you.
Then click “Next” to learn about
three brain states.

Frontal lobe

Parietal lobe

Occipital lobe

Temporal lobe

Brain stem

Hippocampus

Amygdala

Cerebellum

Thalamus

Next

Cerebral cortex

Frontal lobe: Manages planning and organizing and controls your limbs

Temporal lobe: Is where language and recognition memory occurs (contains the hippocampus and amygdala)

Parietal lobe: Manages sensation and perception, spatial awareness, and navigational skills

Occipital lobe: Is the center of visual perception; organizes information to be sent to other brain areas for processing

Brain stem

Keeps you breathing and your heart beating—without you having to think about it (involuntary)

Hippocampus

Plays a major role in learning and memory

Amygdala

Is the center for emotions (especially fear) and motivation

Cerebellum

Coordinates and regulates muscles

Thalamus

Relays sensory information to the cerebral cortex

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Click all the hotspots to complete the brain tour.
While you’re awake...

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Frontal lobe

Temporal lobe

Hippocampus

Amygdala

Cerebellum

Cerebral cortex icon

Cerebral cortex

Frontal lobe: The frontal lobe stores working memory (a system for storing multiple bits of knowledge temporarily in the forefront of your mind while performing a task or solving a problem).

Temporal lobe: The temporal lobe regulates recognition memory (recognizing if a person or object is familiar, plus recalling who or what it is).

Hippocampus icon

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is involved in memory, especially mental maps of places. It also works on memory consolidation, the slow process by which memories are converted from short-term to long-term memory.

Amygdala icon

Amygdala

The amygdala encodes emotional learning into memory, such as fear conditioning (learning to associate something with a negative event so you can try to avoid it later).
Memory research has shown that the more intense your emotions are during an event, the greater the chance that you’ll remember the event.

Cerebellum icon

Cerebellum

The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing and other complex motor functions, such as learning to play a musical instrument.

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Click all the hotspots to complete the brain tour.
While you’re asleep...

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Hippocampus & Cortex

Amygdala

Brain stem

Thalamus

Brain stem icon

Brain stem

The brain stem helps control the transitions between waking and sleeping while continuing to maintain involuntary heartbeat and breathing.
During REM sleep, the brain stem sends signals to relax muscles needed for limb movements, so that we don’t act out our dreams.

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Hippocampus & Cortex

The hippocampus transfers new memories to the cortex, which replays the memories to consolidate them into long-term memory.

Amygdala icon

Amygdala

The amygdala becomes increasingly active during REM sleep.
Dreaming’s exact purpose isn’t known, but it may help you process your emotions.

Thalamus icon

Thalamus

During most stages of sleep, the thalamus (which relays sensory information to the cerebral cortex) reduces its activity so you can tune out your surroundings.
But during REM sleep, the thalamus is active, sending the cortex images, sounds, and other sensations that fill your dreams.

REM sleep

As you sleep, you cycle through a few different stages several times per night.

  • In most sleep stages, brain activity slows, and so do your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements.
  • In contrast, rapid eye movement sleep, also known as REM sleep, is a more active stage. In REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Your brain activity, heartbeat, and breathing become closer to wakefulness. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
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Click all the hotspots to complete the brain tour.
When you’re under
anesthesia...

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Hippocampus

Amygdala

Brain stem

Thalamus

Cerebral cortex

Cerebral cortex icon

Cerebral cortex

Under general anesthesia, auditory processing begins in the cortex, but it doesn’t continue, so we lose the meaning and understanding of vocal commands as well as our ability to respond verbally. Learning is suppressed.

image of asleep and awake brains

Reprinted from British Journal of Anesthesia, Vol 121, S.L. Eagleman, M.B. MacIver, “Can you hear me now? Information processing in primary auditory cortex at loss of consciousness”, Page 526., Copyright Sep 1, 2018, with permission from Elsevier.

Brain stem icon

Brain stem

General anesthesia causes changes in breathing pattern, heart rate, and body temperature; thus, anesthesiologists carefully monitor surgery patients to keep them safe.

Hippocampus icon

Hippocampus

General anesthesia disrupts communication in synaptic networks, disrupting memory formation.

Amygdala icon

Amygdala

General anesthesia activates neurons in the amygdala that block pain.

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Thalamus

General anesthesia interrupts and overpowers the sensory signals that travel back and forth between the thalamus and cortex.

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Hey, you’re an anesthesia researcher—how do you know all this about the brain?
One of the best tools we have for figuring out how the brain works is called a functional MRI, or fMRI for short. From outside your body, it senses brain activity.
How does an fMRI machine sense brain activity?
An fMRI machine safely detects small changes in blood flow in your brain. These changes tell us scientists information, like which parts of the brain are involved with different functions.
Cool!
Yeah, it’s exciting to figure out things no one knew before. You can do it, too—there are lots of fun biomedical research jobs you can have when you grow up!
Whoo-hoo!
You finished your tour of the brain!
Keep Exploring! Find out about your body’s
sleep-wake cycle...and why it goes through
major changes when you’re a teenager.
Continue Continue Continue The Science of Sleep
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