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Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001.

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Neuroscience. 2nd edition.

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Chapter 26The Association Cortices


The association cortices include most of the cerebral surface of the human brain and are largely responsible for the complex processing that goes on between the arrival of input in the primary sensory cortices and the generation of behavior. The diverse functions of the association cortices are loosely referred to as “cognition,” which literally means the process by which we come to know the world (“cognition” is perhaps not the best word to indicate this wide range of neural functions, but it has already become part of the working vocabulary of neurologists and neuroscientists). More specifically, cognition refers to the ability to attend to external stimuli or internal motivation, to identify the significance of such stimuli, and to plan meaningful responses to them. Given the complexity of these tasks, it is not surprising that the association cortices receive and integrate information from a variety of sources, and that they influence a broad range of cortical and subcortical targets. Inputs to the association cortices include projections from the primary and secondary sensory and motor cortices, the thalamus, and the brainstem. Outputs from the association cortices reach the hippocampus, the basal ganglia and cerebellum, the thalamus, and other association cortices. Insight into how the association areas work has come primarily from observations of human patients with damage to one or another of these regions. Noninvasive brain imaging of normal subjects, functional mapping at neurosurgery, and electrophysiological analysis of comparable brain regions in nonhuman primates have generally confirmed these clinical impressions. Together, these studies indicate that, among other functions, the parietal association cortex is especially important for attending to complex stimuli in the external and internal environment, that the temporal association cortex is especially important for identifying the nature of such stimuli, and that the frontal association cortex is especially important for planning appropriate behavioral responses to the stimuli.

  • The Association Cortices
  • An Overview of Cortical Structure
  • Specific Features of the Association Cortices
  • Lesions of the Parietal Association Cortex: Deficits of Attention
  • Lesions of the Temporal Association Cortex: Deficits of Recognition
  • Lesions of the Frontal Association Cortex: Deficits of Planning
  • “Attention Neurons” in the Monkey Parietal Cortex
  • “Recognition Neurons” in the Monkey Temporal Cortex
  • “Planning Neurons” in the Monkey Frontal Cortex
  • Summary
  • Additional Reading

By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.

Copyright © 2001, Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Bookshelf ID: NBK11109


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