agnosia The inability to recognize objects by touch or sight (tactile and visual agnosia) or lack of recognition of what is heard (auditory agnosia).

apraxia The inability to carry out purposeful movements even though there is no muscular weakness.

cortical column Sensory cortical areas are organized in units of neurons from the surface of the cortex to the underlying white matter. Each unit of neurons responds selectively to a specific afferent stimulus.

corticofugal Projections from the cerebral cortex.

corticopetal Projections to the cerebral cortex.

functional neuroimaging Techniques such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging that utilize cerebral metabolism and blood flow as indicators of activity in specific regions of the brain.

receptive field The receptive field of a neuron is the area in the periphery (area of skin or location in the visual field) that, when stimulated maximally, excites or inhibits that cell.

The cerebral cortex is an extensive layer of gray matter that covers the superior surface of the brain. It receives sensory information from the internal and external environments of the organism, processes this information and then decides on and carries out the response to it. Different regions of the cerebral cortex are specialized for specific functions, such as somatic sensory and motor, visceral sensory and motor, and integrative cognitive functions. All of this information fits within the many grooves and convolutions of the cortex. These folds increase the surface area of the brain while enabling it to fit in the small volume of the skull.

The bulk of the cerebral cortex is comprised of the neocortex. The phylogenetically older parts of the cortex include the paleocortex (olfactory cortex, entorhinal and periamygdaloid areas) and the archi-cortex (the hippocampal formation). The neocortex is the primary focus of this article.

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