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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Neocortex (disambiguation).



MeSH Neocortex

NeuroNames ancil-754

NeuroLex ID Neocortex

Dorlands n_03/


TA A14.1.09.304

FMA 62429

Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

[edit on Wikidata]

A representative column of neocortex. Cell body layers are labeled on the left, and fiber layers are
labeled on the right.
The neocortex, also called the neopallium and isocortex, is the part of the mammalian
brain involved in higher-order brain functions such as sensory perception, cognition,
generation of motor commands,[1] spatial reasoning and language.[2]
The neocortex is further subdivided into the true isocortex and the proisocortex.[3]
In the human brain, the neocortex is the largest part of the cerebral cortex which is the
outer layer of the cerebrum, with the allocortexmaking up the rest. The neocortex is made
up of six layers, labelled from the outermost inwards, I to VI. Of all the mammals studied to
date (including humans), a species of oceanic dolphin known as the long-finned pilot
whale has been found to have the most neocortical neurons.[4]


o 2.1Geometry
o 2.2Layers
o 2.3Cortical columns
4Clinical significance
6Neocortex ratio
7See also
9External links

Neocortex is Latin for "new bark" or "new rind". Neopallium means "new mantle" and
isocortex means "equal rind".

The neocortex is the most developed in its organisation and number of layers, of the
cerebral tissues.[5] The neocortex consists of the grey matter, or neuronal cell bodies
and unmyelinated fibers, surrounding the deeper white matter (myelinated axons) in
the cerebrum. This is a very thin layer though, about 24 mm thick.[6] There are two types of
cortex in the neocortex, the proisocortex and the true isocortex. The pro-isocortex is a
transitional area between the true isocortex, and the periallocortex (part of the allocortex). It
is found in the cingulate cortex (part of the limbic system), in Brodmann's
areas 24, 25, 30 and 32, the insula and the parahippocampal gyrus.
The neocortex is smooth in rodents and other small mammals, whereas in primates and
other larger mammals it has deep grooves (sulci) and ridges (gyri). These folds allow the
surface area of the neocortex to be greatly increased. All human brains have the same
overall pattern of main gyri and sulci, although they differ in detail from one person to
another.[clarification needed] The mechanism by which the gyri form during embryogenesis is not
entirely clear, and there are several competing hypotheses that explain gyrification, such as
axonal tension,[7] cortical buckling,[8] or differences in cellular proliferation rates in different
areas of the cortex.[9]
The neocortex contains both excitatory (~80%) and inhibitory (~20%) neurons, named for
their effect on other neurons.[10] The structure of the neocortex is relatively uniform (hence
the alternative names "iso-" and "homotypic" cortex), consisting of six horizontal layers
segregated principally by cell type and neuronal connections.[11] However, there are many
exceptions to this uniformity; for example, layer IV is small or missing in primary motor
cortex. There is some canonical circuitry within the cortex; for example, pyramidal neurons
in the upper layers II and III project their axons to other areas of neocortex, while those in
the deeper layers V and VI often project out of the cortex, e.g. to the thalamus, brainstem,
and spinal cord. Neurons in layer IV receive the majority of the synaptic connections from
outside the cortex (mostly from thalamus), and themselves make short-range, local
connections to other cortical layers.[10] Thus, layer IV is the main recipient of incoming
sensory information and distributes it to the other layers for further processing.
Cortical columns[edit]
The neocortex is often described as being arranged in vertical structures called cortical
columns, patches of neocortex with a diameter of roughly 0.5 mm (and a depth of 2 mm,
i.e., spanning all six layers). These columns are often thought of as the basic repeating
functional units of the neocortex, but their many definitions, in terms of anatomy, size, or
function, are generally not consistent with each other, leading to a lack of consensus
regarding their structure or function or even whether it makes sense to try to understand
neocortex in terms of columns.[12]

The neocortex is derived embryonically from the dorsal telencephalon, which is
the rostral part of the forebrain. The neocortex is divided, into regions demarcated by the
cranial sutures in the skull above, into frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes, which
perform different functions. For example, the occipital lobe contains the primary visual
cortex, and the temporal lobe contains the primary auditory cortex. Further subdivisions or
areas of neocortex are responsible for more specific cognitive processes. In humans,
the frontal lobecontains areas devoted to abilities that are enhanced in or unique to our
species, such as complex language processing localized to the ventrolateral prefrontal
cortex (Broca's area).[10] In humans and other primates, social and emotional processing is
localized to the orbitofrontal cortex. (See Cerebral cortex and Cerebrum.)
The neocortex has also been shown to play an influential role in sleep, memory and
learning processes. Semantic memories appear to be stored in the neocortex, specifically
the anterolateral temporal lobe of the neocortex.[13] It is also involved in instrumental
conditioning; responsible for transmitting sensory information and information about plans
for movement to the basal ganglia.[13] The firing rate of neurons in the neocortex also has an
effect on slow-wave sleep. When the neurons are at rest and are hyperpolarizing, a period
of inhibition occurs during a slow oscillation, called the down state. When the neurons of
the neocortex are in the excitatory depolarizing phase and are firing briefly at a high rate, a
period of excitation occurs during a slow oscillation, called the up state.[13]
There is still much to learn about the roles the neocortex has in the neurological processes
exemplified in human behavior. To further understand the vital role the neocortex plays in
human cognition, IBMs computational model of the human brain was created that
simulated the electrochemistry of the neocortex. The super computer, the Blue Brain
Project, was created to improve understanding of the processes of perception, learning and
memory and gain further knowledge about mental health disorders.[14]

Clinical significance[edit]
Lesions that develop in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease,
interrupt the transfer of information from the sensory neocortex to the prefrontal neocortex.
This disruption of sensory information contributes to the progressive symptoms seen in
neurodegenerative disorders such as changes in personality, decline in cognitive abilities,
and dementia.[15] Damage to the neocortex of the anterolateral temporal lobe results
in semantic dementia, which is the loss of memory of factual information (semantic
memories). These symptoms can also be replicated by transcranial magnetic stimulation of
this area. If damage is sustained to this area, patients do not develop anterograde
amnesia and are able to recall episodic information.[16]

The neocortex is the newest part of the cerebral cortex to evolve (prefix neo meaning new);
the other part of the cerebral cortex is the allocortex. The cellular organization of the
allocortex is different from the six-layered neocortex. In humans, 90% of the cerebral cortex
and 76% of the entire brain is neocortex.[10][17]
For a species to develop a larger neocortex, the brain must too evolve in size so that it is
large enough to support the region. Body size, basal metabolic rate and life history are
factors affecting brain evolution and the coevolution of neocortex size and group
size.[18] The neocortex increased in size in response to pressures for greater cooperation
and competition in early ancestors. With the size increase, there was greater voluntary
inhibitory control of social behaviors resulting in increased social harmony.[19]
The six-layer cortex appears to be a distinguishing feature of mammals; it has been found
in the brains of all mammals, but not in any other animals.[2] There is some
debate,[20][21]however, as to the cross-species nomenclature for neocortex. In avians, for
instance, there are clear examples of cognitive processes that are thought to be neocortical
in nature, despite the lack of the distinctive six-layer neocortical structure.[22] In a similar
manner, reptiles, such as turtles, have primary sensory cortices. A consistent, alternative
name has yet to be agreed upon.