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The Cerebral Cortex

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The Cerebral Cortex

How does our brain process information? Why are brains wrinkly? What are lobes?

The answer to these questions lies within the cerebral cortex!

  • What is the cerebral cortex?
  • What are the important parts of the cerebral cortex?
  • What are the four lobes of the cerebral cortex?
  • How does the cerebral cortex work?

Cerebral Cortex Definition

If you look at images of the cortex, you may notice that there are two hemispheres; the area that is designated as the cerebral cortex's outer layer is much darker. This is called the gray matter portion of the brain. This area is also densely packed with many neurons.

The cerebral cortex is the thin outermost layer of the cerebral hemisphere. It is the main control center and information processing unit.

Inside the gray matter area is the white matter portion of the brain, which is mostly myelinated axons that connect cortical neurons to the rest of the nervous system, or cortical neurons in other areas of the cortex (Myers, 2014).

According to Myer's Psychology for AP, the cerebral cortex houses 20 to 23 billion nerve cells that are linked together by 300 trillion synapses (APA). This is a major highway of information. The cerebral cortex is a communicator for many of our functions such as speech, emotion, and understanding visual stimuli.

Parts of the Cerebral Cortex

Have you ever noticed that brains seem to be folded or wrinkled all over? These are called sulci, the inner portions of the folds or wrinkles of the cerebral cortex. The portion that is not inside a fold is called a gyrus.

Deeper folds of the cerebral cortex are considered to be fissures; in these areas, there are visible divisions of the brain. Two such important fissures are the Sylvian fissure, and the parietal-occipital fissure. The outer area of the cortex which is enclosed by joining the central sulcus to the Sylvian fissure is considered the frontal cortex. The second area is defined by joining the Sylvian fissure to the parietal-occipital fissure; this is known as the temporal cortex. The superior area is defined by the Sylvian fissure and the central sulcus, and the parietal-occipital fissure is known as the parietal cortex. Lastly, the remaining posterior area is known as the occipital cortex (Lyons et al., 2014).

Let's take a deeper look at these lobes that make up the cerebral cortex.

Lobes of the Cerebral Cortex

There are four lobes in the cerebral cortex.

Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is located in the front of the cortex, behind the forehead. This is the largest of the four lobes. It is in charge of the motor cortex, allowing for control of voluntary movements. Also here is Broca's area, which programs the movements necessary for speaking. The prefrontal cortex, which is important to emotional processing, is also in this space.

Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe is located at the top and to the back. Its primary job is to help us with our spatial awareness and navigation.

Occipital Lobe

The occipital love is towards the back and the bottom of the brain. Visual stimuli "such as visuospatial processing, color processing, and motion perception" are processed in this region (Barnes, 2013).

Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe is near the temples or sides of the head. The temporal lobe is in charge of language acquisition and language comprehension. Importantly, emotional and motivational behaviors are controlled in this area, because the hippocampus is here as well.

Functional Regions of the Cerebral Cortex

How do these lobes communicate or send signals?

The cerebral cortex has six important layers that are helpful in communication between both hemispheres. These six layers are packed with nerve cells. The opposite sides of the hemisphere communicate with each other. For example, the left side of the brain communicates to the right side of the body and vice versa.

The Cerebral Cortex lobes of the brain StudySmarterFour lobes, pixabay.com

These are the six layers, listed from outer to inner layers:

  • Molecular layer
  • External granular layer
  • External pyramidal layer
  • Internal granular layer
  • Internal pyramidal layer
  • Multiform layer

The Cerebral Cortex and Consciousness

Information processing in the cerebral cortex happens at lightning speeds, and on a deep cognitive level of understanding. The functions that take place in the cerebral cortex, such as visual processing and memory, are considered to be more advanced. They distinguish us as human beings from other species of animals.

Interoceptive awareness is the deep conscious awareness of the internal state of one's body; this is an advantage for human beings and is part of advanced consciousness. This is possible because of the copious amounts of information that the cerebral cortex can process, either through memories or the senses.

The Cerebral Cortex - Key takeaways

  • The functions that take place in the cerebral cortex, such as visual processing and memory, are considered to be more advanced, and are distinctive factors between human beings and other species of animals.
  • The frontal lobe is in charge of emotional processing, voluntary movements, and speaking (a voluntary movement).
  • The temporal lobe can be found near the temples or sides of the head.
  • The temporal lobe controls language acquisition, language comprehension, and emotional and motivational behaviors.
  • The six layers of the cerebral cortex are molecular layer, external granular layer, external pyramidal layer, internal granular layer, internal pyramidal layer, and multiform layer.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is the thin outermost layer of the cerebral hemisphere. It is the main control center and information processing unit.

If you look at images of the cortex, you may notice that there are two hemispheres; the area that is designated as the cerebral cortex's outer layer is much darker. This is called the gray matter portion of the brain. This area is also densely packed with many neurons.

The function of the cerebral cortex is to be the the main control center and information processing unit.

The cerebral cortex is the information powerhouse of the brain.

The cerebral cortex is located on the top of the brain. 

Final The Cerebral Cortex Quiz

Question

How many hemispheres make up the cerebral cortex?

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Answer

Two

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Question

The darker outer layer of the cerebral cortex is called _______.

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Answer

gray matter

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Question

_____  - the inner portion of the folds or wrinkles of the cerebral cortex.

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Answer

Sulci

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Question

The portion of the cerebral cortex that is not inside a fold or sulci is called a ______. 

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Answer

gyrus

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Question

The________ and the ______ are the two large separators of the

cerebral cortex.

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Answer

Sylvian fissure; parietal-occipital fissure

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Question

There are _____ lobes of the cerebral cortex.

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Answer

 four

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_________ is located in the front of the cortex, behind the forehead.

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The frontal lobe

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Question

Which lobe is the largest in the cerebral cortex?


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Answer

The frontal lobe

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What is the frontal lobe in charge of?

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The frontal lobe is in charge of emotional processing, voluntary movements, and speaking (a voluntary movement).

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__________ is located at the top and to the back.

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The parietal lobe

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What is the parietal lobe in charge of?

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The parietal lobe is in charge of spatial awareness and navigation.

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________ is towards the back and the bottom of the brain.

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The occipital lobe

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The __________ is in charge of visuospatial processing, color processing, and

motion perception.

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Answer

occipital lobe

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The_______ can be found near the temples or sides of the head.


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 temporal lobe

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The______controls language acquisition, language comprehension, and emotional and

motivational behaviors. 

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 temporal lobe

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Question

The cerebral cortex has a thin layer of a fabric-like area of the brain consisting of numerous ______.

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interconnected neural cells.

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The purpose of the _____ is to process the massive amount of information that bombards our senses constantly.

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cerebral cortex

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Their primary focus is to protect and communicate with other cells. They also have an important role in the ability to learn and think.

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glial cells 

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Each hemisphere's cortex has ____ lobes which are divided by fissures (or folds).


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four

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These four lobes are the ____

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frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.

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____ - making plans and judgments, speaking, and muscle movements.


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Frontal lobes 

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______ - receive information from the opposite ear.


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Temporal lobes

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______ - receive information from touch.


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Parietal lobes

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____ - receive information from our visual fields.


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Occipital lobes

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With the creation of ______, researchers are now able to match brain signals.

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brain-computer interfaces

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______ is in charge of receiving information from skin senses and movement of body parts.

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Somatosensory cortex

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Larger areas of the brain are busy with higher thinking and functions. These areas are called the ____ of the brain and are found in all four lobes.

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 association areas

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When this area of the cerebral cortex is stimulated, the person may report feeling touched. Where is it?

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somatosensory cortex

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The motor cortex _____ messages. 

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receives 

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The somatosensory cortex ______ messages.

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sends

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_____ is the brain's capacity to change simply by reorganizing and modifying neurons after damage or learning a new skill.

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Answer

Plasticity

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What is synaptic pruning?

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When synaptic connections are used more frequently, they become much stronger. 

When a strong synaptic connection hasn't been made, these neurons eventually die.

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There are two types of brain plasticity; _____ and _____


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structural and functional

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___ plasticity of the brain means changes to the physical structure because of learning.

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Structural

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_____ plasticity means that functions of the brain move from the damaged area to the undamaged areas of the brain.

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Functional

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Most often used in the aid of

plasticity is ______.

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constrained-induced therapy

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The process by which our brain tries to fix or create new brain cells is called  ____.

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Answer

neurogenesis.

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What are some ways to help improve neural plasticity in the brain?


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Answer

Learning a new language, reading, creating art, learning a musical instrument. Sleep. Exercise. 

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Why is plasticity important?

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Answer

Plasticity can help us understand how we learn things. It also shows our ability to gain more cognitive abilities. The more workout we give our brain, the stronger our connections become, and it is less likely that these connections will be lost. 

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True or False 

Neurons are not able to regenerate themselves.


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True

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True or False

Neural tissue can reorganize itself to function.


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True 

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Interoceptive awareness is ____.

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Answer

the deep conscious awareness of the internal state of one's body

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Which lobe is responsible for our motor skills?

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Answer

Frontal Lobe

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Which lobe contains Broca's area?


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Answer

The frontal lobe

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Which lobe is in charge of our emotional and motivational behaviors?

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Answer

The temporal lobe

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Which lobe holds the hippocampus?


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Answer

Temporal lobe

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Which lobe is charged with the task of spatial awareness?

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The parietal lobe

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Which lobe is located towards the back and bottom of the brain?


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Answer

The occipital lobe

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Which lobe is in charge of our visual perception?

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Answer

The occipital lobe

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Question

Fill in the blank: The cerebral cortex is in charge of up to ___ billion nerve cells and ____ trillion synaptic connections (Myers, 2014). 

***There are TWO blanks 

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Answer

23

300

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60%

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