What Is the Parietal Cortex?
The parietal cortex is the outer surface of the parietal lobe, which is a section of the human brain. It is an important structure because it contains cell bodies of neurons, which are brain cells important in controlling the function of the human body. The role of the parietal lobe includes integrating sensations picked up by the body, helping humans understand language, allowing people to perform complex mathematical problems, and giving humans a sense of their position in the world around them. A variety of pathologic processes including strokes, seizures, and tumors can affect this region of the brain.
Human brains are commonly divided into a number of different sections. The superior aspect of the brain is the cerebrum, which controls higher-order brain function. Below the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain stem can be found, which are responsible for more primitive functions such as balance, breathing, and control of the heart rate. The cerebrum is further divided into the frontal lobes, parietal lobes, and occipital lobes. There are two symmetrical parietal lobes on each side of the brain, and they are located on the superior posterior surface of the cerebrum, behind the frontal lobes but in front of the occipital lobes.
A number of brain functions can be attributed to the parietal cortex. One of the most important parts of the cortex is the postcentral gyrus, also known as the primary somatosensory cortex, which is important for integrating and interpreting tactile, visual, auditory, and other sensory stimuli picked up by different parts of the human body. The parietal cortex also plays a critical role in helping humans understand language, perform mathematical calculations, and appreciate the spatial arrangement of different objects in the environment.
Brain tissue contained in the parietal cortex receives blood from portions of the middle cerebral artery, which is an important part of the brain's circulatory system. The vascular supply of the parietal cortex is of clinical importance because disruptions in the blood flow to the parietal cortex, either as a result of a blockage of the artery or from a tear in the artery, can deprive the region of substances needed to survive. When the blood flow to a region of the brain is suddenly cut off, this condition is called a stroke.
Other pathologic conditions can also affect the parietal cortex. A number of tumors can develop in the region, compressing the parietal brain tissue and disrupting its function. Seizures, which are abnormal electrical discharges, can originate in the region, causing affected patients to have a number of neurologic problems. Injury to the parietal lobe can cause a number of symptoms, including an inability to recognize objects based on tactile sensation alone, a lack of awareness of a side of the body, and an inability to correctly name objects.
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