Tasks of the cerebral cortex
The cerebral cortex, also known as the cortex cerebri, is visible from the outside and envelops the brain. It is also known as the grey matter, because in a fixed state it appears greyish in relation to the cerebral medulla. The cerebral cortex contains the nerve cores of the nerve tracts that run to other parts of the brain and the rest of the body.
Here it is important to know the general structure of a nerve cell. Nerve cells or neurons consist of a cell body, an axon, which resembles a long extension and many dendrites. Dendrites are similar to antennae and receive signals from other nerve cells.
This information is transmitted to the cell body and processed there. Along the axon, this processed information can sometimes be passed on for several meters. Synapses are located at the end of the axon.
They serve to transmit information to downstream nerve, muscle or gland cells. The cell bodies are collected and arranged in six layers in the cerebral cortex. They receive signals from the body in different layers than those from the rest of the brain.
In this way, a certain pre-sorting takes place. Depending on where the information comes from, it is passed on to various other nerve cells. The cerebral cortex thus serves, among other things, as a major hub for incoming stimuli and signals that must be distributed to the right areas in order to ensure meaningful processing.
It contains the two speech centres. One serves to recognize and interpret spoken and written content. The second is responsible for the motor and sensory production of speech, i.e. words and sentences.
In the dorsal, i.e. back-facing, rear part of the brain and the cerebral cortex lies the centre for vision. It is connected to other centres that interpret what is seen. To which of these centres the information is passed on depends, among other things, on the colour of what is seen, whether it moves or stands still.
In the same way, faces are interpreted in other places. The areas for face recognition of other people and also of the own person are again connected to emotional centres, just to give an insight into the complexity of the cerebrum. Of course there is also a region in the cortex for hearing.
The largest part, however, is occupied by the so-called motor cortex. It is responsible for the coordination of movements. To do this, it works closely with the somatosensory cortex, which brings together sensory impressions.
This also includes proprioception, also called depth perception. It provides information about the position of muscles and joints in relation to each other, so that the brain knows exactly where each muscle is located in order to be able to initiate and coordinate movements in a targeted manner. The sensory impressions also include the sense of touch, temperature, vibration and pain.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the consciousness and personality of a person. It is closely linked to memory and the emotional areas of the brain. It is the cerebral cortex that makes thinking possible in the form in which a person is able to do it and leads to us being aware of ourselves.