Although the neocortex is homologous with the dorsal cortex of reptiles, the neocortex is new with mammals as a thick, layered structure. The neocortex is an especially important part of the brain that varies greatly in structure and function across species. The neocortex can be changed in structure and function with training and experience so that members of the same species can become individuals. Several consistent features of the neocortex provide a framework with great structural and functional flexibility. These include the laminar organization of the neocortex with six basic layers of neurons with differing functional roles and patterns of connections, the existence of classes of neurons including small receptive neurons, large pyramidal output neurons, and local circuit inhibitory neurons, and the pronounced vertical connectivity of neurons across the depth of cortex. Species vary in amount of neocortex, types, numbers and sizes of areas, how areas disproportionately represent movements or sensory surfaces, modular organization within areas, laminar differentiation and specialization within areas, and patterns of connections within and across areas and with subcortical structures. The neocortex is a structure with great information-processing and -storing capacity. In humans and possibly other mammals, the neocortex mediates consciousness. Most importantly, the neural circuits in the neocortex are modifiable in development and throughout life, so that species become specialized for relevant perceptual and behavioral abilities, and individuals acquire individual skills, abilities, personalities, and memories.

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