What Is the Function of the Cerebral Cortex?

According to Dartmouth, the cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the brain and is responsible for numerous functions including sensation, language, creativity, motor processes, memory, abstraction, emotion, attention and judgement. The cerebral cortex is generally associated with the higher-level functions of the brain, and in animals with large brains, it is wrinkled as to provide more surface area for grey matter to flourish.

Current Biology states that the cerebral cortex is 2 to 3 millimeters thick in the human brain and covers an area of several hundred square centimeters. Neuroscience for Kids explains that in addition to the aforementioned functions, the cerebral cortex is responsible for problem solving, complex processing of auditory information, processing of language and speech articulation. The cerebral cortex forms animals’ fundamental perceptual experience and allows animals to interact with their environment. In humans, this process is amplified in accordance with humanity’s intellectual capabilities. While other animals are capable of communication and what could roughly be considered tonal “language,” humans have higher-level processes that allow for abstraction, complex language and reasoning.

The cerebral cortex is divided into two different sections: the neocortex and the allocortex. The neocortex is the larger of the two, has six layers and can be divided into two types: the true isocortex and the proisocortex. The allocortex is smaller, does not have six layers and is comprised of three regions: the archicortex, the paleocortex and the periallocortex.