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Rev Neurol (Paris). 1994 Aug-Sep;150(8-9):564-9.

Neurocognitive networks and selectively distributed processing.

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Bullard and Denny-Brown Laboratories, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The association cortex of the human brain can be divided into unimodal and transmodal components. Unimodal (modality-specific) cortical areas are subdivided into upstream regions specialized for encoding unitary features of experience and downstream regions which are specialized for encoding composite features. Modality-specific features lead to multimodal knowledge through the mediation of transmodal areas in the brain. These transmodal areas include cortical regions that are conventionally designated as heteromodal, paralimbic and limbic cortex. Contrary to earlier formulations, it is no longer thought that these transmodal areas contain a convergent residue of knowledge. Instead, it appears that the role of these transmodal areas is to contain a road map for the multifocal binding and calling up of distributed information in multiple modalities. Knowledge can thus be encoded in a flexible distributed rather than rigid convergent form. Observations on patients with focal neurological lesions indicate that transmodal areas act like neural hubs (or gateways) for accessing critical domains of knowledge rather than as dedicated centers for specific cognitive functions. In the processes related to memory, a limbic structure such as the hippocampus does not act as a bank for specific memories but as a critical node for accessing distributed information related to recently acquired experience. Damage to a sufficient volume of the limbic system interferes with the coherence of recall and storage even though the constituent fragments of the corresponding experiences may remain stored quite well in other parts of the brain.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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