Cerebral cortex

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The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the mammalian brain. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is constituted of up to six horizontal layers, each of which has a different composition in terms of neurons and connectivity. The human cerebral cortex is 2–4 mm (0.08–0.16 inches) thick.[scientific citation needed]

In preserved brains, it has a gray color, hence the name "gray matter". In contrast to gray matter that is formed from neurons and their unmyelinated fibers, the white matter below them is formed predominantly by myelinated axons interconnecting neurons in different regions of the cerebral cortex with each other and neurons in other parts of the central nervous system.

The surface of the cerebral cortex is folded in large mammals, such that more than two-thirds of it in the human brain is buried in the grooves, called "sulci". The phylogenetically most recent part of the cerebral cortex, the neocortex (also called isocortex), is differentiated into six horizontal layers; the more ancient part of the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus (also called archicortex), has at most three cellular layers, and is divided into subfields. Neurons in various layers connect vertically to form small microcircuits, called columns. Different neocortical architectonic fields are distinguished upon variations in the thickness of these layers, their predominant cell type and other factors such as neurochemical markers.

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