Last update: September 18, 2022
By BrainMatters

The telencephalon is the upper part of the brain. This part of the brain contains three major structures, the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, and the basal ganglia. Another name for the cerebral cortex is the cerebrum.

In the cerebrum all sensory information is received and processed. It is also where the muscles are controlled, and decisions are made. In this way the cerebral cortex is responsible for many different functions. The different functions of the cerebrum are centred in different areas. These different areas are called lobes, and everyone has four different lobes.

- The frontal lobe, involved in movement and decision making

- The temporal lobe, the area that represents auditory information.

- The parietal lobe, processes sensory information coming from the skin

- The occipital lobe, especially important for processing visual information

The cerebral cortex can also be divided into a left part and a right part. These parts are also called hemispheres. Most neurons in the left hemisphere contain information about the right side of the body, and vice versa. Thus, the hemispheres are independent of each other in this sense. Nevertheless, communication takes place between the left and right hemispheres. This communication is made possible by the corpus callosum and the anterior commissure.

All the different parts of the cerebral cortex have six laminae. These are layers of neurons parallel to the surface of the cortex. The different layers all have specialized functions. For example, layer five is responsible for transmitting information from the brain to the spinal cord. Because the cells in the spinal cord are especially important for movement, this layer is thickest in the motor areas. In contrast, layer four is not found at all in the motor areas. This layer receives sensory information from the thalamus, and thus is especially large in all primary sensory areas (e.g., in V1).

In addition to this division into layers, neurons are also arranged in columns. Cells in the same column have similar properties, and thus will also respond to nearly similar stimuli. If a cell in the somatosensory cortex responds to touches from the left palm, a neighboring cell will also respond. Touching the right foot will make neurons in a different column active.

Author: Myrthe Princen (translated by Melanie Smekal)

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