Associative cortex (brain): types, parts and functions

We see, feel, smell, touch … Human beings receive many different stimuli that we experience through the senses. However what our sensory receptors capture is just raw data, Which in itself would not serve us to survive.

For example, if we couldn’t relate visual perception to the feeling of threat, a predator could easily devour it. We also couldn’t compose a melody or enjoy a kiss. Even if we were only talking about one perception and focusing it on one meaning, we could not make sense of it.

We need to be able to bring the perceived data together and integrate it to make sense. This is also handled by different nuclei such as the thalamus areas of the brain such as the associative cortex. The latter will deal with this article, focusing on exploring the types, functions, and lesions associated with the associative cortex and its parts.

    The associative cortex and its functions

    We call the associative cortex the part of the cerebral cortex (the outermost and most visible part of the brain) primarily responsible for the association and link different information from brain regions to each other in charge of the various senses or possess the programs necessary for the accomplishment of the movement.

    In other words, these are the areas of the cerebral cortex that allow the integration of information from the same and / or several senses so that we can have a joint perception of the stimuli and the environment. Thus, it is they who largely allow us to be aware of what surrounds us and even of ourselves. thanks to them we can interpret reality and react adaptively to her. The information processed can be sensory or motor.

    Types of associative cortex

    There are different types of associative cortex, Depending on the type of information they process.

    1. Unimodal associative cortex

    The unimodal association cortex is responsible for processing information from a single direction or function (such as movement). These scabs are usually located near areas that process sensory information or need to move.

    These are the areas that they are related to the processing and integration of sensory or motor information. They allow, among other things, the recognition and interpretation of stimuli.

      2. Multimodal associative cortex

      This type of cortex is responsible for integrating information from different sensory modalities, allowing the interpretation of the environment and the planning and execution of mental operations or behaviors.

      3. Supramodal associative cortex

      This type of associative cortex differs from the previous ones in that it does not directly work with information from any sensory modality, but it is linked to cognitive aspects. It is often considered multimodal.

        Main unimodal associative fields

        The number of zones and associative structures is very high, due to the need to integrate information from the brain and act accordingly. In fact, over 80% of the cerebral cortex is thought to perform some type of association function.

        If we talk about unimodal association domains, we can find the following among them.

        1. Secondary visual zone

        Visual information is embedded in this brain region, connecting aspects such as color, shape or depth.

        2. Secondary hearing zone

        Thanks to it, we are able to integrate hearing information, such as tone and volume.

        3. Secondary somatic zone

        In this area are integrated perceptions of somesthesia, all the sensations that we capture from our own body.

        4. Premotor zone and additional motor cortex

        Motor-type associative zones dedicated to the integration of the signals necessary for the preparation of an action or a behavior. It has the necessary programs to perform a movement.

        Three main areas of multimodal and supramodal association

        Regarding the zones of multimodal and supramodal association, in general we can indicate the existence of three major brain zones.

        1. Prefrontal associative cortex

        Located in front of the motor cortex, the prefrontal cortex is one of the most strongly connected areas of the brain in terms of controlling and managing behavior, being largely responsible for how we are. He is primarily responsible for cognitive and behavioral management tasks, including aspects such as reasoning, prediction and planning, decision making or behavior inhibition.

        From this area, start with the set of executive functions, as well as the formation of the personality of each of us. Thanks to it, we are able to adapt to situations and develop strategies and objectives. It is also relevant in the expression of the language, due to the important role of the Broca region.

        2. Area of ​​parieto-temporo-occipital association

        This association zone is located between the temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, integrating different information of the senses such as vision, touch and hearing. This associative space is fundamental for humans, because it is largely thanks to it that we link data from different paths of perception.

        It allows symbolism, interpretation and understanding of reality as a whole. too much enables conscious perception and orientation. Thanks to it (especially the one located in the left hemisphere), we are also able to interpret spoken and written language.

        3. Limbic cortex

        The limbic cortex is the third largest zone of multimodal association. In this associative cortex, information from the limbic system is integrated. It allows us to understand our emotions and associate them with specific aspects of reality, as well as relate them to memories. It also influences the capture of emotions in others.

        Effects of damage in these areas

        The effect of an injury or impairment in any of these areas can have various effects of varying intensity and severity, altering our behavior and perception.

        Injuries in areas of unimodal association will cause difficulty in recognizing stimuli, generating agnosis. In other words, that is to say we see something but we don’t know what it is, Or we touch something but we cannot determine what it is As for injuries in areas of motor association, especially in extra motor, they tend to generate incoordination and apraxia of so that the tracking of actions that require sequenced movements will be deeply affected, minimal or even nonexistent.

        With regard to injuries in areas of multimodal association, damage can affect a large number of complex mental functions and processes. If areas of language are damaged, aphasia will occur (especially those in which there are problems with comprehension). In the case of the prefrontal, damage in this area can alter personality and self-management from the person, causing disinhibition and aggression to the inability to maintain focus, set goals or follow plans.

        As for the associative cortex, emotional expression may be made difficult or impossible or the capture of this in others, as well as to untie the emotion from the stimulation that is being received.

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