Future Directions

This overview of the current state of knowledge on topics related to the cerebral cortex clearly indicates that there are numerous exciting avenues for future research. For instance, there is much to be learned about the molecular nature of processing in the brain. The localization of different receptors and receptor subtypes, the interactions of the neurotransmitters on specific regions of these receptors, and the subsequent intracellular signaling cascades are all important to understanding processing of neural signals in the intrinsic circuitry of the cortical columns and how this is transformed into cognitive processes, such as attention, memory, and personality. Understanding the molecular nature of the cells of the cerebral cortex also has important developmental and clinical implications.

It is also critical to continue to explore mechanisms of cortical plasticity. The specific genes that control plasticity in the developing compared to the mature cerebral cortex need to be determined to provide insight into potential repair mechanisms for neuro-trauma or neurodegenerative diseases. In this respect, investigations into therapeutic methods such as the use of neurotrophic factors and neuronal stem cells following stroke or other causes of cerebral cortex injury are providing exciting results. These potential gene therapies will also be of interest to investigators studying the neurodegenerative cerebral cortex disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

Finally, neuroimaging methods such as PET and fMRI will continue to be powerful tools to unravel the manner in which the cerebral cortex functions in the human to produce complex behaviors and cognition. This technology will be of fundamental importance in the future for not only localizing areas of the cortex devoted to particular functions but also for identifying the network of connections throughout the brain that mediate the higher cognitive functions that are unique to the human or conscious mind.

See Also the Following Articles

AGNOSIA • APRAXIA • AUDITORY AGNOSIA • BROCA'S AREA • CEREBRAL CIRCULATION • CHEMICAL NEUROANATOMY • CINGULATE CORTEX • GABA • NEUROPLASTICITY, DEVELOPMENTAL • PAIN • VISUAL AND AUDITORY INTEGRATION • VISUAL CORTEX

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