Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Malignant Tumor of the Brain Anatomy

To better understand brain cancer, it helps to understand the anatomy of the brain.

The brain is well protected by:

  • The scalp
  • The skull
  • The dura
    • A tough 3-layer sheath that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
    • Layers include the dura mater (strongest layer), arachnoid mater (middle layer), and pia mater (closest to the brain)

The brain is a complicated structure containing many parts. These include:
  • The cerebrum:
    • Made up of two cerebral hemispheres that are connected in the middle
    • It is the largest part of the brain
    • Each area of the cerebrum performs an important function, such as language or movement
    • Higher thought (cognition) comes from the frontal cortex (front portion of the cerebrum)
    • Outside of the cerebrum are blood vessels
    • There are fluid-filled cavities and channels inside the brain
  • The cerebellum:
    • Located in the lower, back part of the skull
    • Controls movement and coordination
  • The brainstem and pituitary gland:
    • Responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, body temperature, and blood pressure regulation
    • Pituitary gland is the "master gland" that controls other endocrine glands in the body, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands
    • Pineal gland
  • The cranial nerves:
    • Twelve large nerves exit the bottom of the brain to supply function to the senses such as hearing, vision, and taste
  • The cerebral blood vessels:
    • A complicated system that supplies oxygenated blood and nutrients to the brain

The blood supply to the brain is divided into two main parts:
  • Anterior cerebral circulation:
    • The front of the brain is supplied by the paired carotid arteries in the neck.
  • Posterior cerebral circulation:
    • The back portion of the brain is supplied by the paired vertebral arteries in the spine.

Anatomy examples:
  • Carotid artery branches shown on arteriogram
  • Cerebral arteries viewed in cross-section through middle of brain
  • Cerebral arteries viewed from bottom of brain
  • Cerebral arteries on enhanced CT scan
  • Cerebral arteries on arteriogram

Last Updated: Dec 2, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Malignant Tumor of the Brain References
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  2. Ichimura K, Ohgaki H, Kleihues P, Collins VP. Molecular pathogenesis of astrocytic tumours. J Neurooncol. 2004 Nov;70(2):137-60. [15674475]
  3. Kaal EC, Niel CG, Vecht CJ. Therapeutic management of brain metastasis. Lancet Neurol. 2005 May;4(5):289-98. [15847842]
  4. See SJ, Gilbert MR. Anaplastic astrocytoma: diagnosis, prognosis, and management. Semin Oncol. 2004 Oct;31(5):618-34. [15497115]
  5. Tsao MN, Lloyd NS, Wong RK, Rakovitch E, Chow E, Laperriere N; Supportive Care Guidelines Group of Cancer Care Ontario's Program in Evidence-based Care. Radiotherapeutic management of brain metastases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Treat Rev. 2005 Jun;31(4):256-73. [15951117]
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