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Localized Activation in Cerebral Cortex. Causes?

Steve Lehar slehar at alewife.bu.edu
Thu Oct 31 17:50:23 EST 1991


> I am wondering what is the cause of localized activity in the cerebral
> cortex.  My question is  sparked by some lovely  pictures on the cover
> of the book "Mapp-  ing the Brain and  its  Functions" written  by the
> Institute of Medicine.
   ...
> 	Is this activity driven by the signals coming in?
> 
> 	Is there competition in the cortex for this sort of activity?
> 
> 	Are these signals gated by lower brain regions (ie thalamus or lower)?

Whenever I think about the cortex, I think of an  analogy with a large
society, the   population of the US,   say.  Now  although   there are
doctors, lawyers, plumbers and musicians in almost every town in every
state, there is an unusually high concentration  of doctors in Boston,
lawyers in Philidelphia, politicians in  Washington DC, etc.  My guess
is that this is similar to the organization of the cortex.

When there  is a war  in the gulf, say, then  you will probably see an
increase in the number of telephone calls in the DC area.   Not all of
these are war related, and not all  war related calls  are centered on
DC, but if  you could draw  a map of  telephone activity I'll bet  you
will see certain  hot-spots of activity especially  in those locations
that have become specialized for military or political functions.

Why  does the brain  have specialized areas?   Well, I suspect, again,
that its  for pretty much  the same reason why  the US has specialized
areas, because it makes it easier for the specialists  to get together
to   work  on  big problems.   Why    are those   areas not completely
specialized?  Well, again,  even  lawyers and politicians need  to eat
and sleep, drive to work, send letters, etc. so part and parcel of any
specialized  activity    is a whole   host  of   generalized   support
activities.

That's my guess!

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