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Cerebral Cortex: Anatomy

The cerebral cortex is the largest and most developed part of the human brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification and central nervous system Central nervous system The main information-processing organs of the nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and meninges. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification (CNS). Occupying the upper part of the cranial cavity, the cerebral cortex has 4 lobes and is divided into 2 hemispheres that are joined centrally by the corpus callosum. The cortex is organized in gyri that are separated by sulci. The cerebral cortex provides the neural substrate Substrate A substance upon which the enzyme acts. Basics of Enzymes for the conscious experience of sensory Sensory Neurons which conduct nerve impulses to the central nervous system. Nervous System: Histology stimuli.

Last updated: Jun 13, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

General Features

Overview

The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification:

  • Most superficial of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification structures, lying deep to the meninges Meninges The brain and the spinal cord are enveloped by 3 overlapping layers of connective tissue called the meninges. The layers are, from the most external layer to the most internal layer, the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater. Between these layers are 3 potential spaces called the epidural, subdural, and subarachnoid spaces. Meninges: Anatomy
  • Located above the tentorium cerebri, a structure formed by paired dural reflections positioned just superior to the cerebellum Cerebellum The cerebellum, Latin for “little brain,” is located in the posterior cranial fossa, dorsal to the pons and midbrain, and its principal role is in the coordination of movements. The cerebellum consists of 3 lobes on either side of its 2 hemispheres and is connected in the middle by the vermis. Cerebellum: Anatomy
  • Derived embryologically from ectoderm Ectoderm The outer of the three germ layers of an embryo. Gastrulation and Neurulation

The cerebrum is the largest portion of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification. The cerebrum is composed of gray matter (cerebral cortex) and underlying white matter White Matter The region of central nervous system that appears lighter in color than the other type, gray matter. It mainly consists of myelinated nerve fibers and contains few neuronal cell bodies or dendrites. Brown-Séquard Syndrome structures:

  • Organized in 4 paired lobes
  • Subdivided into sulci (indentations) and gyri (prominences) that are individually named and serve unique functions.
  • Most developed part of the human brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification:
    • Located in the cranium Cranium The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy
    • Connected to the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy via the brainstem
  • Embryology: Dorsal ectoderm Ectoderm The outer of the three germ layers of an embryo. Gastrulation and Neurulation neural tube Neural tube A tube of ectodermal tissue in an embryo that will give rise to the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and the brain. Lumen within the neural tube is called neural canal which gives rise to the central canal of the spinal cord and the ventricles of the brain. Gastrulation and Neurulation prosencephalon Prosencephalon The anterior of the three primitive cerebral vesicles of the embryonic brain arising from the neural tube. It subdivides to form diencephalon and telencephalon. Development of the Nervous System and Face telencephalon Telencephalon The anterior subdivision of the embryonic prosencephalon or the corresponding part of the adult prosencephalon that includes the cerebrum and associated structures. Development of the Nervous System and Face
Brain vesicle

The embryonic development of the cerebrum: note the lineage starting from the neural tube Neural tube A tube of ectodermal tissue in an embryo that will give rise to the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and the brain. Lumen within the neural tube is called neural canal which gives rise to the central canal of the spinal cord and the ventricles of the brain. Gastrulation and Neurulation prosencephalon Prosencephalon The anterior of the three primitive cerebral vesicles of the embryonic brain arising from the neural tube. It subdivides to form diencephalon and telencephalon. Development of the Nervous System and Face telencephalon Telencephalon The anterior subdivision of the embryonic prosencephalon or the corresponding part of the adult prosencephalon that includes the cerebrum and associated structures. Development of the Nervous System and Face → cerebrum

Image: “ Brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification Vesicle Vesicle Primary Skin Lesions” by Phil Schatz. License: CC BY 4.0

Lobes

  • Frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe
  • Parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe
  • Occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe
  • Temporal lobe

Notable sulci

  • Medial longitudinal fissure Fissure A crack or split that extends into the dermis Generalized and Localized Rashes: separates left and right cerebral hemispheres 
  • Lateral sulcus (or Sylvian fissure Fissure A crack or split that extends into the dermis Generalized and Localized Rashes): separates parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy and temporal lobes 
  • Central sulcus (of Rolando): separates parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy and frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobes 
  • Collateral sulcus: separates fusiform gyrus and hippocampal gyrus
  • Calcarine sulcus: separates occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobes horizontally into the cuneus (superior) and lingual (inferior) gyri
  • Parieto-occipital sulcus: separates the parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy and occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobes

Notable gyri

  • Precentral gyrus: in the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe, controls voluntary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology movement
  • Postcentral gyrus: in the parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe, site of somatosensory cortex
  • Cingulate gyrus Cingulate gyrus One of the convolutions on the medial surface of the cerebral hemispheres. It surrounds the rostral part of the brain and corpus callosum and forms part of the limbic system. Limbic System: Anatomy: located above the corpus callosum and forms part of the limbic system Limbic system The limbic system is a neuronal network that mediates emotion and motivation, while also playing a role in learning and memory. The extended neural network is vital to numerous basic psychological functions and plays an invaluable role in processing and responding to environmental stimuli. Limbic System: Anatomy 
  • Fusiform gyrus; in the temporal and occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobes, thought to play a role in facial and word recognition
  • Inferior temporal gyrus: involved with auditory processing
  • Hippocampal gyrus (parahippocampal gyrus) → fold on the inner surface of the temporal lobe that borders the hippocampus
Lobes of cerebral cortex

The image demonstrates the location of some key structures, including each of the 4 lobes, the precentral and postcentral gyrus, and the central, lateral, and parieto-occipital sulci.

Image: “Lobes of Cerebral Cortex” by OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology. License: CC BY 4.0

Microscopic Structure and Neurovasculature

Microscopic structure

  • Outer gray matter
  • Inner white matter White Matter The region of central nervous system that appears lighter in color than the other type, gray matter. It mainly consists of myelinated nerve fibers and contains few neuronal cell bodies or dendrites. Brown-Séquard Syndrome consisting of 2 parts:
    • Neocortex: 
      • Larger and evolutionarily newer
      • Processes higher-order brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification function
      • Composed of 6 layers of neurons Neurons The basic cellular units of nervous tissue. Each neuron consists of a body, an axon, and dendrites. Their purpose is to receive, conduct, and transmit impulses in the nervous system. Nervous System: Histology
    • Allocortex:
      • Smaller and evolutionarily older
      • Composed of 4 layers of neurons Neurons The basic cellular units of nervous tissue. Each neuron consists of a body, an axon, and dendrites. Their purpose is to receive, conduct, and transmit impulses in the nervous system. Nervous System: Histology

Vascular system

  • Arterial supply:
    • Arterial supply is by the paired internal carotid and vertebral arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology, which anchor and give rise to the circle of Willis Circle of Willis A polygonal anastomosis at the base of the brain formed by the internal carotid, proximal parts of the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral arteries, the anterior communicating artery and the posterior communicating arteries. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage.
    • The circle of Willis Circle of Willis A polygonal anastomosis at the base of the brain formed by the internal carotid, proximal parts of the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral arteries, the anterior communicating artery and the posterior communicating arteries. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage gives rise to 3 primary cerebral arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology:
      • Anterior cerebral artery Anterior cerebral artery Artery formed by the bifurcation of the internal carotid artery. Branches of the anterior cerebral artery supply the caudate nucleus; internal capsule; putamen; septal nuclei; gyrus cinguli; and surfaces of the frontal lobe and parietal lobe. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy: supplies anteromedial surface
      • Middle cerebral artery Middle cerebral artery The largest of the cerebral arteries. It trifurcates into temporal, frontal, and parietal branches supplying blood to most of the parenchyma of these lobes in the cerebral cortex. These are the areas involved in motor, sensory, and speech activities. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy (MCA): supplies lateral surface
      • Posterior cerebral artery Posterior cerebral artery Artery formed by the bifurcation of the basilar artery. Branches of the posterior cerebral artery supply portions of the occipital lobe; parietal lobe; inferior temporal gyrus, brainstem, and choroid plexus. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy (PCA): supplies posterior and inferior surfaces
  • Venous drainage:
    • Cerebral veins Veins Veins are tubular collections of cells, which transport deoxygenated blood and waste from the capillary beds back to the heart. Veins are classified into 3 types: small veins/venules, medium veins, and large veins. Each type contains 3 primary layers: tunica intima, tunica media, and tunica adventitia. Veins: Histology drain into large venous channels Channels The Cell: Cell Membrane that run through the dura mater Dura mater The outermost of the three meninges, a fibrous membrane of connective tissue that covers the brain and the spinal cord. Meninges: Anatomy.
    • All empty into the confluence of sinuses, transverse sinuses, sigmoid Sigmoid A segment of the colon between the rectum and the descending colon. Volvulus sinuses, and terminally into the jugular veins Veins Veins are tubular collections of cells, which transport deoxygenated blood and waste from the capillary beds back to the heart. Veins are classified into 3 types: small veins/venules, medium veins, and large veins. Each type contains 3 primary layers: tunica intima, tunica media, and tunica adventitia. Veins: Histology.

Frontal Lobe

The frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe is the most anterior/superior aspect of the supratentorial brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification. It controls many of the higher-order functions of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification, including motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology function, executive thought, and speech.

  • Borders:
    • Anteriorly by the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types
    • Superiorly by the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy and parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy bones
    • Posteriorly by the central sulcus
    • Inferiorly by the anterior cranial fossa Anterior cranial fossa The compartment containing the inferior part and anterior extremities of the frontal lobes (frontal lobe) of the cerebral hemispheres. It is formed mainly by orbital parts of the frontal bone and the lesser wings of the sphenoid bone. Skull: Anatomy
  • Frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe location:
  • Motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology homunculus: neurological map in the primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex representing the proportion of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification dedicated to processing motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology function
    • Lower extremities represented most medially
    • Trunk, upper extremities, and face located most laterally
    • The size of the feature on the homunculus relates to the relative size of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification region dedicated to that specific feature.
  • Blood supply:
    • Lateral frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe: MCA
    • Medial/superior frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe: Anterior cerebral artery Anterior cerebral artery Artery formed by the bifurcation of the internal carotid artery. Branches of the anterior cerebral artery supply the caudate nucleus; internal capsule; putamen; septal nuclei; gyrus cinguli; and surfaces of the frontal lobe and parietal lobe. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy
Table: Frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe internal structure
Name Location Brodmann
number
Function
Primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex Precentral gyrus 4 Dictates contralateral motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology control
Premotor cortex Anterior to primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex 6 Programming of motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology events; neurons Neurons The basic cellular units of nervous tissue. Each neuron consists of a body, an axon, and dendrites. Their purpose is to receive, conduct, and transmit impulses in the nervous system. Nervous System: Histology activate prior to primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology neurons Neurons The basic cellular units of nervous tissue. Each neuron consists of a body, an axon, and dendrites. Their purpose is to receive, conduct, and transmit impulses in the nervous system. Nervous System: Histology
Supplementary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex Midline surface of the hemisphere anterior to leg Leg The lower leg, or just “leg” in anatomical terms, is the part of the lower limb between the knee and the ankle joint. The bony structure is composed of the tibia and fibula bones, and the muscles of the leg are grouped into the anterior, lateral, and posterior compartments by extensions of fascia. Leg: Anatomy representation of primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex 6 Planning of complex motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology movements
Prefrontal cortex Anterior portion of frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe 8–14, 24, 25, 32, 44–47 Olfaction Olfaction The sense of smell, or olfaction, begins in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is covered in specialized mucosa. From there, the olfactory nerve transmits the sensory perception of smell via the olfactory pathway. This pathway is composed of the olfactory cells and bulb, the tractus and striae olfactoriae, and the primary olfactory cortex and amygdala. Olfaction: Anatomy and executive function (problem-solving, judgment Judgment The process of discovering or asserting an objective or intrinsic relation between two objects or concepts; a faculty or power that enables a person to make judgments; the process of bringing to light and asserting the implicit meaning of a concept; a critical evaluation of a person or situation. Psychiatric Assessment, planning, behavior, and emotions)
Frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy eye field Intersection of the middle frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy gyrus with precentral gyrus 8
  • Coordination Coordination Cerebellar Disorders of voluntary eye movements
  • Receives afferents from the primary and secondary visual cortices
  • Provides efferents to the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification muscle nuclei of the cranial nerves Cranial nerves There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves (CNs), which run from the brain to various parts of the head, neck, and trunk. The CNs can be sensory or motor or both. The CNs are named and numbered in Roman numerals according to their location, from the front to the back of the brain. The 12 Cranial Nerves: Overview and Functions III, IV, and VI → superior colliculus Superior Colliculus The anterior pair of the quadrigeminal bodies which coordinate the general behavioral orienting responses to visual stimuli, such as whole-body turning, and reaching. Cranial Nerve Palsies → innervation of the eye muscle nuclei
Broca area Inferior frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy gyrus of the dominant hemisphere 44, 45 Word production ( motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology speech)
Primary motor cortex

Note the primary motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology cortex (the most posterior structure of the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe) with the overlaid homunculus, detailing the proportions of the cortex dedicated to processing each specific motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology function.

Image by Lecturio.

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Parietal Lobe

The parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe lies posterior to the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe and superior to the occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe. It is associated with the processes of sensation and language comprehension. 

  • Borders:
    • Anteriorly by the central sulcus
    • Superiorly by the parietal bone Parietal bone One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy,
    • Posteriorly by the parieto-occipital sulcus
    • Inferiorly by the Sylvian fissure Fissure A crack or split that extends into the dermis Generalized and Localized Rashes
  • Parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe location: posterior to the central sulcus on the superolateral and medial surfaces of the cerebral hemisphere
  • Sensory Sensory Neurons which conduct nerve impulses to the central nervous system. Nervous System: Histology homunculus: neurological map in the primary somatosensory cortex representing the proportion of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification dedicated to processing sensory Sensory Neurons which conduct nerve impulses to the central nervous system. Nervous System: Histology function
    • Lower extremities represented most medial
    • Trunk, upper extremities, and face located most lateral
    • Size of feature on homunculus = size of brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification region dedicated to that specific feature
  • Blood supply:
    • Medial: middle cerebral artery Middle cerebral artery The largest of the cerebral arteries. It trifurcates into temporal, frontal, and parietal branches supplying blood to most of the parenchyma of these lobes in the cerebral cortex. These are the areas involved in motor, sensory, and speech activities. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy (MCA) and Anterior cerebral artery Anterior cerebral artery Artery formed by the bifurcation of the internal carotid artery. Branches of the anterior cerebral artery supply the caudate nucleus; internal capsule; putamen; septal nuclei; gyrus cinguli; and surfaces of the frontal lobe and parietal lobe. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy (ACA)
    • Posterior: posterior cerebral artery Posterior cerebral artery Artery formed by the bifurcation of the basilar artery. Branches of the posterior cerebral artery supply portions of the occipital lobe; parietal lobe; inferior temporal gyrus, brainstem, and choroid plexus. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy (PCA) 
Table: Parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe internal structure
Name Location Brodmann
number
Function
Primary somatosensory cortex Postcentral gyrus 3, 1, 2 Receives contralateral somatosensory input from the ventral posteromedial nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles and ventral posterolateral nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles of the thalamus Thalamus The thalamus is a large, ovoid structure in the dorsal part of the diencephalon that is located between the cerebral cortex and midbrain. It consists of several interconnected nuclei of grey matter separated by the laminae of white matter. The thalamus is the main conductor of information that passes between the cerebral cortex and the periphery, spinal cord, or brain stem. Thalamus: Anatomy
Parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy association areas Posterior parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy 5, 7 Stereognosis Stereognosis Perception of shape and form of objects by touch, via tactile stimuli. Neurological Examination and awareness of contralateral self and surroundings
Wernicke Area Superior temporal gyrus of the dominant hemisphere 22 Comprehension of language
Primary somatosensory cortex

The primary somatosensory cortex (labeled in dark blue) marks the anterior-most region of the parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe.

Image by Lecturio.

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Occipital Lobe

The occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe is the most posterior lobe Posterior lobe Cerebellum: Anatomy of the supratentorial brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification. It is primarily involved with visual processing.

  • Borders: 
    • Anteriorly by the temporal lobe
    • Superiorly by the parieto-occipital sulcus
    • Posteriorly by the occipital bone Occipital bone Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy
    • Inferiorly by the tentorium cerebelli
  • Occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe location: posterior to the temporal and parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobes
    • The parieto-occipital sulcus separates its medial surface from the temporal and parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobes.
    • The lateral parietotemporal line separates its lateral surface from the temporal and parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobes.
  • Blood supply: branches of PCA
Table: Occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe internal structure
Name Location Brodmann
number
Function
Primary visual cortex Primary Visual Cortex The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders Posterior occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe 17 Vision Vision Ophthalmic Exam and acuity (input from lateral geniculate nucleus Lateral Geniculate Nucleus The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders via optic radiations)
Visual association cortex Extrastriate cortex 18, 19 Processes inputs related to form, color, motion, depth, and spatial relationships
Primary visual cortex

Note the location of the primary visual cortex Primary Visual Cortex The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders in the most posterior region of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification in the occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe.

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Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe is the most anterior/inferior aspect of the supratentorial brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification. It is involved with the processes of hearing, olfaction Olfaction The sense of smell, or olfaction, begins in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is covered in specialized mucosa. From there, the olfactory nerve transmits the sensory perception of smell via the olfactory pathway. This pathway is composed of the olfactory cells and bulb, the tractus and striae olfactoriae, and the primary olfactory cortex and amygdala. Olfaction: Anatomy, and memory Memory Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) memorizing or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory. Psychiatric Assessment.

  • Borders: 
    • Anteriorly by the sphenoid bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types
    • Superiorly by the Sylvian fissure Fissure A crack or split that extends into the dermis Generalized and Localized Rashes
    • Posteriorly by the occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe
    • Inferiorly by the middle cranial fossa Middle cranial fossa The compartment containing the anterior extremities and half the inferior surface of the temporal lobes (temporal lobe) of the cerebral hemispheres. Lying posterior and inferior to the anterior cranial fossa, it is formed by part of the temporal bone and sphenoid bone. It is separated from the posterior cranial fossa by crests formed by the superior borders of the petrous parts of the temporal bones. Skull: Anatomy
  • Temporal lobe location: occupies the middle cranial fossa Middle cranial fossa The compartment containing the anterior extremities and half the inferior surface of the temporal lobes (temporal lobe) of the cerebral hemispheres. Lying posterior and inferior to the anterior cranial fossa, it is formed by part of the temporal bone and sphenoid bone. It is separated from the posterior cranial fossa by crests formed by the superior borders of the petrous parts of the temporal bones. Skull: Anatomy
    • Extends superiorly to the Sylvian fissure Fissure A crack or split that extends into the dermis Generalized and Localized Rashes and posteriorly to the lateral parietotemporal line
    • Inferior and lateral to parietal Parietal One of a pair of irregularly shaped quadrilateral bones situated between the frontal bone and occipital bone, which together form the sides of the cranium. Skull: Anatomy lobe
    • Inferior and posterior to the frontal Frontal The bone that forms the frontal aspect of the skull. Its flat part forms the forehead, articulating inferiorly with the nasal bone and the cheek bone on each side of the face. Skull: Anatomy lobe
    • Anterior to the occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy lobe
  • Blood supply:
    • Branches from the internal carotid system
    • Branches from the vertebrobasilar artery
Table: Temporal lobe internal structure
Name Location Brodmann
number
Function
Primary auditory cortex Auditory cortex The region of the cerebral cortex that receives the auditory radiation from the medial geniculate body. Auditory and Vestibular Pathways: Anatomy Superior temporal plane of temporal lobes within lateral sulcus 40, 41 Hearing
Middle and inferior temporal gyri Middle and inferior temporal lobe 20, 21 Long-term memory Memory Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) memorizing or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory. Psychiatric Assessment
Parahippocampal gyrus Medially located in the inferior temporo-occipital cortex 34 Short-term memory Memory Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) memorizing or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory. Psychiatric Assessment
Uncus Continuous with the hippocampal gyrus 35 Olfaction Olfaction The sense of smell, or olfaction, begins in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is covered in specialized mucosa. From there, the olfactory nerve transmits the sensory perception of smell via the olfactory pathway. This pathway is composed of the olfactory cells and bulb, the tractus and striae olfactoriae, and the primary olfactory cortex and amygdala. Olfaction: Anatomy
Fusiform Gyrus Occipitotemporal Medial Gyrus 37 Facial recognition

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Clinical Relevance

The following structures are closely related to the cerebral cortex by location or function:

  • Auditory and vestibular pathways: neural pathways that allow for the perception Perception The process by which the nature and meaning of sensory stimuli are recognized and interpreted. Psychiatric Assessment of sound. The auditory sense converts acoustic waves—meaning fluctuations in pressure in our surroundings—into electrical signals and, consequently, perceives tones, sounds, and noises.
  • Visual pathway Visual pathway The primary visual pathway consists of a relay system, beginning at the retina, whose ganglion cell axons form the optic nerve. The optic nerve fibers from each eye hemidecussate in the optic chiasm (OC), with nasal fibers joining the temporal fibers of the contralateral nerve. Signals are then transmitted to the primary visual cortex of the occipital lobe. The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders: the visual system, part of the CNS. The visual pathway Visual pathway The primary visual pathway consists of a relay system, beginning at the retina, whose ganglion cell axons form the optic nerve. The optic nerve fibers from each eye hemidecussate in the optic chiasm (OC), with nasal fibers joining the temporal fibers of the contralateral nerve. Signals are then transmitted to the primary visual cortex of the occipital lobe. The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders encompasses multiple structures that together enable the visual perception Perception The process by which the nature and meaning of sensory stimuli are recognized and interpreted. Psychiatric Assessment of the world around us. The visual pathway Visual pathway The primary visual pathway consists of a relay system, beginning at the retina, whose ganglion cell axons form the optic nerve. The optic nerve fibers from each eye hemidecussate in the optic chiasm (OC), with nasal fibers joining the temporal fibers of the contralateral nerve. Signals are then transmitted to the primary visual cortex of the occipital lobe. The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders begins with the photoreceptors in the retina Retina The ten-layered nervous tissue membrane of the eye. It is continuous with the optic nerve and receives images of external objects and transmits visual impulses to the brain. Its outer surface is in contact with the choroid and the inner surface with the vitreous body. The outermost layer is pigmented, whereas the inner nine layers are transparent. Eye: Anatomy, continues through the optic nerve Optic nerve The 2nd cranial nerve which conveys visual information from the retina to the brain. The nerve carries the axons of the retinal ganglion cells which sort at the optic chiasm and continue via the optic tracts to the brain. The largest projection is to the lateral geniculate nuclei; other targets include the superior colliculi and the suprachiasmatic nuclei. Though known as the second cranial nerve, it is considered part of the central nervous system. The 12 Cranial Nerves: Overview and Functions and the lateral geniculate body Lateral Geniculate Body The Visual Pathway and Related Disorders, and ends in the visual cortex and the visual association cortex, which processes and integrates the information.
  • Brainstem: consists of the midbrain Midbrain The middle of the three primitive cerebral vesicles of the embryonic brain. Without further subdivision, midbrain develops into a short, constricted portion connecting the pons and the diencephalon. Midbrain contains two major parts, the dorsal tectum mesencephali and the ventral tegmentum mesencephali, housing components of auditory, visual, and other sensorimotor systems. Brain Stem: Anatomy, pons Pons The front part of the hindbrain (rhombencephalon) that lies between the medulla and the midbrain (mesencephalon) ventral to the cerebellum. It is composed of two parts, the dorsal and the ventral. The pons serves as a relay station for neural pathways between the cerebellum to the cerebrum. Brain Stem: Anatomy, and medulla oblongata Medulla Oblongata The lower portion of the brain stem. It is inferior to the pons and anterior to the cerebellum. Medulla oblongata serves as a relay station between the brain and the spinal cord, and contains centers for regulating respiratory, vasomotor, cardiac, and reflex activities. Brain Stem: Anatomy. The brainstem is a stalk-like structure that connects the cerebrum to the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy (SC) and is a major relay station for sensory Sensory Neurons which conduct nerve impulses to the central nervous system. Nervous System: Histology, motor Motor Neurons which send impulses peripherally to activate muscles or secretory cells. Nervous System: Histology, and autonomic information.
  • Cerebellum Cerebellum The cerebellum, Latin for “little brain,” is located in the posterior cranial fossa, dorsal to the pons and midbrain, and its principal role is in the coordination of movements. The cerebellum consists of 3 lobes on either side of its 2 hemispheres and is connected in the middle by the vermis. Cerebellum: Anatomy: located in the posterior cranial fossa Posterior cranial fossa The infratentorial compartment that contains the cerebellum and brain stem. It is formed by the posterior third of the superior surface of the body of the sphenoid (sphenoid bone), by the occipital, the petrous, and mastoid portions of the temporal bone, and the posterior inferior angle of the parietal bone. Skull: Anatomy, dorsal to the pons Pons The front part of the hindbrain (rhombencephalon) that lies between the medulla and the midbrain (mesencephalon) ventral to the cerebellum. It is composed of two parts, the dorsal and the ventral. The pons serves as a relay station for neural pathways between the cerebellum to the cerebrum. Brain Stem: Anatomy and midbrain Midbrain The middle of the three primitive cerebral vesicles of the embryonic brain. Without further subdivision, midbrain develops into a short, constricted portion connecting the pons and the diencephalon. Midbrain contains two major parts, the dorsal tectum mesencephali and the ventral tegmentum mesencephali, housing components of auditory, visual, and other sensorimotor systems. Brain Stem: Anatomy. The cerebellum Cerebellum The cerebellum, Latin for “little brain,” is located in the posterior cranial fossa, dorsal to the pons and midbrain, and its principal role is in the coordination of movements. The cerebellum consists of 3 lobes on either side of its 2 hemispheres and is connected in the middle by the vermis. Cerebellum: Anatomy‘s principle involvement is in the coordination Coordination Cerebellar Disorders of movements, balance, and posture. The cerebellum Cerebellum The cerebellum, Latin for “little brain,” is located in the posterior cranial fossa, dorsal to the pons and midbrain, and its principal role is in the coordination of movements. The cerebellum consists of 3 lobes on either side of its 2 hemispheres and is connected in the middle by the vermis. Cerebellum: Anatomy consists of 3 lobes on either side of its 2 hemispheres and is connected in the middle by the vermis. 
  • Cerebrovascular system Cerebrovascular system Blood supply to the brain can be divided into an anterior and a posterior circulation, which interconnect to form the circle of Willis. The anterior circulation is derived from the internal carotid arteries and consists mainly of the anterior and middle cerebral arteries. The posterior circulation is derived from the vertebral arteries and consists primarily of the cerebellar and posterior cerebral arteries. Cerebrovascular System: Anatomy: composed of the vessels supplying the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification. The brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification receives approximately 750 ml of blood every minute, which is 15% of the cardiac output Cardiac output The volume of blood passing through the heart per unit of time. It is usually expressed as liters (volume) per minute so as not to be confused with stroke volume (volume per beat). Cardiac Mechanics. The arterial supply of the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification is divided into 2 categories: the anterior circulation Circulation The movement of the blood as it is pumped through the cardiovascular system. ABCDE Assessment from the internal carotid artery Internal carotid artery Branch of the common carotid artery which supplies the anterior part of the brain, the eye and its appendages, the forehead and nose. Carotid Arterial System: Anatomy system and the posterior cerebral circulation Circulation The movement of the blood as it is pumped through the cardiovascular system. ABCDE Assessment from the vertebrobasilar circulatory system.
  • Diencephalon Diencephalon The paired caudal parts of the prosencephalon from which the thalamus; hypothalamus; epithalamus; and subthalamus are derived. Development of the Nervous System and Face: consists of 4 components, which are the thalamus Thalamus The thalamus is a large, ovoid structure in the dorsal part of the diencephalon that is located between the cerebral cortex and midbrain. It consists of several interconnected nuclei of grey matter separated by the laminae of white matter. The thalamus is the main conductor of information that passes between the cerebral cortex and the periphery, spinal cord, or brain stem. Thalamus: Anatomy, the epithalamus, the hypothalamus Hypothalamus The hypothalamus is a collection of various nuclei within the diencephalon in the center of the brain. The hypothalamus plays a vital role in endocrine regulation as the primary regulator of the pituitary gland, and it is the major point of integration between the central nervous and endocrine systems. Hypothalamus, and the subthalamus. Overall, the diencephalon Diencephalon The paired caudal parts of the prosencephalon from which the thalamus; hypothalamus; epithalamus; and subthalamus are derived. Development of the Nervous System and Face coordinates unconscious Unconscious Those forces and content of the mind which are not ordinarily available to conscious awareness or to immediate recall. Psychotherapy vegetative and sensorimotor functions.
  • Limbic system Limbic system The limbic system is a neuronal network that mediates emotion and motivation, while also playing a role in learning and memory. The extended neural network is vital to numerous basic psychological functions and plays an invaluable role in processing and responding to environmental stimuli. Limbic System: Anatomy: consists of several components: the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus with entorhinal cortex, the cingulate gyrus Cingulate gyrus One of the convolutions on the medial surface of the cerebral hemispheres. It surrounds the rostral part of the brain and corpus callosum and forms part of the limbic system. Limbic System: Anatomy, the amygdala Amygdala Almond-shaped group of basal nuclei anterior to the inferior horn of the lateral ventricle of the temporal lobe. The amygdala is part of the limbic system. Limbic System: Anatomy, and the mammillary bodies Mammillary bodies A pair of nuclei and associated gray matter in the interpeduncular space rostral to the posterior perforated substance in the posterior hypothalamus. Limbic System: Anatomy. These structures have a variety of functions, including processing and integration of emotion, long-term memory Memory Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) memorizing or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory. Psychiatric Assessment, and sense of smell Smell The sense of smell, or olfaction, begins in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is covered in specialized mucosa. From there, the olfactory nerve transmits the sensory perception of smell via the olfactory pathway. This pathway is composed of the olfactory cells and bulb, the tractus and striae olfactoriae, and the primary olfactory cortex and amygdala. Olfaction: Anatomy.

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