PUBLISHED: 5:34 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Kids: keep your brain running strong
Have you ever wondered why you can get up and walk without even thinking about it, or where dreams come from? And, how are you able to remember your phone number and the teacher you had in kindergarten? It's all because of the incredible computer that lives in your head and weighs in at only three pounds; the brain.

The brain is the control central for our body and like the heart has many different parts and depends on teamwork. So let's get started and use our brain to learn about it.

The main part of the brain is called the cerebrum, and it is the heavy weight making up 85% of the brain. It is split into two parts, the right side and the left side.

The left side controls the right side of the body, and the right side controls the left side of the body. Whew, that was confusing!

Some scientists believe that the right side of the brain allows you to think more creatively, like making music, or drawing a picture.

The left side is thought to be more logical, breaking down information it receives so that we can make sense of it, like solving math problems or making a scientific discovery. The left side also helps with speech.

The cerebrum is also responsible for our memories, short term, what you had for breakfast and long term and what you did for winter vacation. If you're thinking really hard, dreaming at night or remembering that really cool gift you got from grandma last year, you know your cerebrum is hard at work.

Next is the cerebellum, which is the caboose of the brain, or the back.

It is below and much smaller than the cerebrum but acts in a big way by controlling our balance, movement and coordination. Imagine riding your bike, it takes balance to keep from falling over right?

How about throwing a baseball that takes movement and walking, talking and chewing gum at the same time takes a lot of coordination, which means all those muscles are working together.

Now beneath the cerebrum and in front of the cerebellum is the brain stem and it connects the brain to the spinal cord and the spinal cord runs down the neck and travels down the back.

The brain stem has a very important job; it is in charge of telling our body to breathe, digest food and circulate blood. It also controls involuntary muscle movement like our heart beating or our eyes blinking. The brain stem helps sort through all the messages that go between our body and brain. If you get a splinter in your finger, your body sends a message to your brain, which sends a message back that says, ouch! If your stomach is growling the brain stem sends a message, and the brain answers back with lunchtime, pretty cool.

Next in line is the pituitary gland. Only the size of a pea, it is responsible for helping us grow by producing and releasing special hormones into our bodies.

This pea-sized wonder also aids other hormones that help control sugar and water in our bodies and keeps our metabolism going.

Metabolism equals everything in your body working together to keep you alive and growing. It also helps give you plenty of energy.

In our brain is a little control box called the hypothalamus, and it is responsible for keeping our bodies at the right temperature of 98.6 degrees. If our body gets to hot, this little gadget tells us to sweat, and if we get too cold, it causes us to shiver. All this helps us to maintain a comfortable and healthy temperature.

So the brain is more than just a grey squishy thing after all, and truly is our own computer storing memories, dreaming, controlling the way our bodies move, thinking and creating. It helps us balance on a bike, keeps us cool and helps us to grow. The brain tells us when we have a splinter by sending pain, and the brain is responsible for all those emotions such as anger, happiness and being sad.

So with all the hard work the brain is doing for you make sure you take good care of it by eating healthy foods.

Exercise daily and always wear a helmet when riding your bike, snowboarding or rollerblading.

Remember to exercise your brain by challenging it with puzzles, reading or writing. It's really a no-brainer, kids; your brain is cool!