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What Are the Different Areas of the Cerebral Cortex?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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There are three common areas of the cerebral cortex. These parts are the association, motor, and sensory areas. Each of these three areas play separate roles in receiving, processing, and passing on information in the brain. In general, the cerebral cortex is responsible for handling all of the information that deals with the senses, movements, and consciousness.

The cerebral cortex is also known as the gray matter in the brain because of its grayish coloring. It is a layer of neural tissue, which is tissue that contains many neurons, that covers both of the hemispheres of the brain. There are a total of six layers that make up the cerebral cortex. The neurons within the tissue of each layer are connected with other areas of the brain.

Association areas of the cerebral cortex are connected to the occipital, temporal, and parietal lobes that are located at the rear region of the cerebral cortex. This area contributes to a person's perceptual awareness, or how perceptions influence experiences. Abstract thought and the planning of movements and actions are influenced by the association areas. Various forms of language, such as expression and reception, are also managed in this area. Additionally, attention, memory, and the processing of consciousness in relation to movement are maintained by this area.

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Motor areas of the cerebral cortex are found in both hemispheres. They stretch from one ear, across the top of the brain, and down to the other ear. These areas control voluntary movements, particularly the fine movements made by the hands. Motor areas receive and send input from the substantia nigra and the basal nuclei.

The sensory areas gather, process, and send information that comes from the senses. Primary sensory areas get information from the thalamus. Each brain hemisphere gets sensory information from opposite sides of the body, which means that the right hemisphere gets signals from the left side of the body while the left hemisphere receives signals from the right side of the body. Touch, hearing, and vision are handled by this area of the cerebral cortex.

While the areas of the cerebral cortex can be generally divided based on purpose, they are actually divided even further than the three areas. Many doctors and researchers have mapped the cerebral cortex and split it into many areas. These more definitive areas are further classified as primary or secondary. Primary areas handle simpler functions that directly deal with the input. The secondary areas are responsible for more complex functions, such as judgment and creativity.

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