The Cortical Hierarchy


Today we’re going back to basics and talking a little bit about the cortical structure and hierarchy.

Generally speaking, the cerebral cortex can be divided into two categories:

– sensory cortex (such as visual, auditory or somatosensory)

– association cortex (such as the prefrontal cortex).

As their name suggest, these types of cortex have different functions. Each type of sensory cortex is responsible for processing the information coming from each of your senses. On the other hand, the association cortex ”associates” or integrates information coming from many different areas of the brain.

Additionally, the structure of these cortices is not homogeneous. Sensory cortices are less myelinated, receive more recurrent connections from subcortical regions and have less local excitatory connections compared to association cortices.

Given that, when seen with the naked eye, all cortex looks pretty much the same, understanding the differences in cortical microstructure is an important step forward for further elucidating the mysteries of the brain.

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Demirtaş, M., Burt, J. B., Helmer, M., Ji, J. L., Adkinson, B. D., Glasser, M. F., … & Murray, J. D. (2019). Hierarchical heterogeneity across human cortex shapes large-scale neural dynamics. Neuron101(6), 1181-1194.

Shafiei, G., Baillet, S., & Misic, B. (2021). Mapping electromagnetic networks to haemodynamic networks in the human brain. bioRxiv.

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