gray matter



We explain what gray matter is, what its functions are and where it is located. Also, why is it important and what is white matter.

In the brain, gray matter spreads to form the cerebral cortex.

What is gray matter?

It is known as gray matter or gray matter to the element that constitutes certain areas of the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) of characteristic gray color, composed of neuronal bodies (the "body" of the neurons) and dendrites lacking myelin, together with glial cells or neuroglia.

The gray matter is found inside the spinal cord, tending towards the center and towards its sides, in the shape of the letter H; and in the brain, on the other hand, in the external zone except in the basal ganglia, thus forming the cerebral cortex: the structure most complex nervous system in the human body.

In principle, as it is not covered with myelin, gray matter does not serve for the rapid transmission of nerve impulses, so it is associated with other intellectual capacities of the human beingAlthough it is not possible to affirm that the greater the mass of gray matter, the greater the intelligence, since dolphins have more than human beings.

Gray matter function

Through neural connections, gray matter fulfills mental and cognitive functions.

The gray matter of the brain fulfills the vital function of being the receptor of the information and the one in charge of the thought, that is, of reasoning and memory in its various areas and meanings. From the linguistic capacity, the perception, interpretation, abstraction and a huge etcetera of mental and cognitive functions all depend on gray matter and the connections between its multiple types of neurons.

On the other hand, in the spinal column, the gray matter operates as a regulator and selector of the information that will be transmitted to the brain, but also as a source of immediate impulses and of the so-called “body memory” that allows that all reactions do not have to come from the brain and thus lightens the work of nervous processing.

Location of gray matter

Gray matter is found throughout the brain surface, as it makes up the cortex of the brain, the most developed, complex and most connected area of ​​our entire nervous system. It is also found in the basal ganglia, deep in the cerebellum, and in the thalamus and hypothalamus areas.

In turn, it can be found inside the spinal cord, in an H-shaped or butterfly-shaped segment, in the dorsal, intermediolateral and ventral horns of the spine, as well as in the intermediate zone (dorsal nucleus of Clarke ).

Importance of gray matter

Thanks to gray matter, complex, creative and abstract thought patterns emerged.

Medical cases of people injured in regions of the brain rich in gray matter have been seen, and the impact that such injuries can and usually have on various areas of human cognitive functioning has been noted: the ability of the brain to language, short or long-term memory, associative ability, learning, etc.

Thanks to this, it is known that gray matter is precisely the portion of the nervous system that allowed the emergence of complex, creative and abstract thought patterns in primitive humanity. So it was not enough to have a bigger brain. volume To possess human intelligence, it required a brain with abundant gray matter and a rough cortex, which fosters numerous connections between the neurons that compose it.

Gray matter and white matter

Gray matter differs from white matter in much more than its color, determined by the high presence of dendrites with myelin in the latter (myelin is whitish in color). They are distinguished in the speed of transmission of nervous information, much faster in white matter than in gray, and in the depth at which it is found, since the white matter is inside the brain (although the covering of the spinal cord).

For a long time it was thought that white matter was passive, but today we know that it plays a vital role in the distribution of nervous information and in the modulation of action potentials, that is, it is responsible for basic operational functions that they support complex processing, which is handled by gray matter, especially in the brain.

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