Cerebral cortex: A thin mantle of gray matter about the size of a formal dinner napkin covering the surface of each cerebral hemisphere. The cerebral cortex is crumpled and folded, forming numerous convolutions (gyri) and crevices (sulci). It is made up of six layers of nerve cells and the nerve pathways that connect them. The cerebral cortex is responsible for the processes of thought, perception and memory and serves as the seat of advanced motor function, social abilities, language, and problem solving.
The embryonic development of the cerebral cortex is under the control of a number of genes. In the first trimester of fetal life, neurons arise in a region lining the cerebral cavity. Precursor cells in this “proliferative zone” give rise to neurons that migrate up and out into the cortex, forming its layers. Other cell types arrive from different areas to complete the structure.
Much can go wrong in this process and result in congenital malformations of the cerebral cortex. Much can also go wrong with the cerebral cortex after birth. Nerve cells in the cerebral cortex are known to die in Alzheimer disease and in many other brain diseases.
The word “cortex” is Latin for the bark of a tree. The plural of cortex is cortices. The adjective is cortical.
- Cerebral edema
Cerebral edema: Accumulation of excessive fluid in the substance of the brain. The brain is especially susceptible to injury from edema, because it is located within a confined space and cannot expand. Also known as brain edema, brain swelling, swelling of the brain, and wet brain.
- Cerebral fornix
Cerebral fornix: An arching fibrous band in the brain that connects the two lobes of the cerebrum. There are two such bands, each of which is an arched tract of nerves.
- Cerebral hemispheres
Cerebral hemispheres: The two halves of the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain.
- Cerebral herniation
Cerebral herniation: The abnormal protrusion of brain tissue through an opening when there is increased intracranial pressure (when the brain is under increased pressure). The increased pressure may be due to a number of causes including inflammation of the brain (as in meningitis), a tumor, hemorrhage, and edema (swelling of the brain). The tonsils of […]
- Cerebral hypoxia Medical Definition
Cerebral hypoxia: a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain. This can be due to a decreased amount of oxygen in the blood, a decrease in the pumping power of the heart, or any type of obstruction to blood flow. In mild cases, cerebral hypoxia causes poor judgment, inattentiveness, and problems with […]