The cerebral cortex, known to most people as gray matter, is one of the most vital parts of the brain. But what exactly is the cerebral cortex, where is it located, and what is it responsible for?
The cerebral cortex is one and a half to five millimetres thick. It is the layer of the brain often called “gray matter”. It is called gray as the nerves in this area don’t have the insulation that makes most other parts of the brain look white. The cerebral cortex covers the outer part of the cerebrum and cerebellum.
The cerebral cortex is made up of folded bulges that are called gyri. These gyri create furrows called sulci. These folds create more surface area, increasing the amount of gray matter and therefore the amount of information that can be processed. The cortex is divided into right and left hemispheres and is the most highly developed part of the brain. It is also the most recent structure in the history of brain evolution.
The cerebral cortex is divided into lobes which each have a specific function.
There are different lobes in the cerebral cortex which are responsible for different things. These are:
• the parietal lobe – this is involved in the reception and processing of sensory information from the body such as pain and touch sensation and visual perception, it is also involved in spatial orientation, speech, cognition, and information processing
• the frontal lobe – this is involved in decision making, problem solving and planning as well as reasoning, judgment and impulse control
• the occipital lobe – this is involved in vision and colour recognition
• the temporal lobe – this is involved in memory, emotion, hearing, and language
Basically speaking, the cerebral cortex is vital for sensing and interpreting input from various parts of the body and also for maintaining cognitive function. Sensory functions of the cerebral cortex include hearing, touch, and vision. Cognitive functions include thinking, perceiving, and understanding language. In this way, it can be said that the cerebral cortex determines intelligence. It is also responsible for planning and organisation. The cerebral cortex also determines a person’s personality.