• Saturday June 25,2022

Gray matter

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

In the brain, gray matter spreads forming the cerebral cortex.
  1. What is gray matter?

The gray matter or gray matter is known as the element that constitutes certain areas of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of characteristic gray color, composed of neuronal somas (the body of neurons ) and dendrites devoid of myelin, along with glial cells or neuroglia.

Gray matter is found inside the spinal cord, tending towards the center and towards its sides, in the form of 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 most complex nervous structure of the human body.

In principle, since 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 abilities of the human being, although it is not possible to affirm that at greater Gray matter mass possesses greater intelligence, as dolphins have more quantity than human beings.

See also: Synapse.

  1. Gray matter function

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

The gray matter of the brain fulfills the vital function of being the recipient of information and responsible for thinking, that is, of reasoning and memory in its various areas and meanings. From linguistic ability, perception, interpretation, abstraction and a huge number of mental and cognitive functions, they all depend on gray matter and the connections between their Multiple types of neurons.

In contrast, in the spine, 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 the so-called “body memory” that allows all reactions not to come from the brain and lighten the work of nerve processing.

  1. Location of gray matter

Gray matter is found in the entire brain surface, as it composes the cortex of the brain, the most developed, most 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 areas of the thalamus and the hypothalamus.

In turn, it can be found inside the spinal cord, in a H-shaped or butterfly segment, on the dorsal, intermediatelateral and ventral spines of the spine, as well as in the intermediate zone (Clarke's dorsal nucleus ).

  1. Importance of gray matter

Thanks to gray matter, complex, creative and abstract thinking models emerged.

Medical cases of people injured in regions of the brain rich in gray matter have been seen, and the impact that such lesions can and often have on various areas of human cognitive functioning has been noted: language ability, short-term or long-term memory, associative capacity, 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 models of thought in primitive humanity. So it was not enough to have a brain of greater volume to possess a human intelligence, but it required a brain with abundant gray matter and a rough crust, which propitiated numerous connections between the neurons that compose it.

  1. 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 the nervous information, much faster in the white matter than in the gray matter, and in the depth to which it is, since the white matter is the interior of the brain (although the cover of the spinal cord).

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

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