The Cortex Machina project has its origins in a deeply rooted fascination with neurobiology in general, and the biological origins of consciousness in particular. Unfortunately, it can often be very challenging to discuss and share these fascinating concepts, simply because they generally require a lot of prior knowledge which is, to say the least, quite unfamiliar to most people. That’s why we have started this series of short columns: to kindle interest in the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology and to provide my readers with enough general knowledge on the human brain and cognition to start exploring and sharing these fascinating concepts themselves. We will start with a series of articles on brain anatomy, to provide the reader with an understanding of brain architecture and nomenclature, which will be helpful later on when we discuss other topics. So without further ado, let’s enter now into your Diencephalon!
As we’ve seen, different areas of the cerebral cortex are connected to each other through an extensive network of dendrites and axons forming the white matter in the Cerebrum. It isn’t completely disorganized though. We can identify defined pathways where white matter fibers are grouped together, called ‘white matter tracts’. These connect various areas of the cortex, like gyrus to gyrus connections and white matter tracts going all the way to the other hemisphere, passing through the corpus callosum. But they also connect the cerebral cortex with what we call “deep structures”. These are structures with specific functions that are mostly found in the diencephalon (though the basal ganglia are located in the telencephalon (= cerebrum)) and which will sound familiar as a couple of these deep structures have already been mentioned before.
Let’s review the most important of these deep structures.
In the Diencephalon
The diencephalon contains the vast majority of deep structures. We’ll give a brief overview of the main ones as well as their location in the brain.
- Pituitary gland
- Pineal gland
- Limbic system
Figure 22: Thalamus, Hypothalamus, Pituitary gland, Pineal gland and Limbic system.
A big thanks for your reading from the entire Cortex Machina team!
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