Poster Session F, Tuesday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
The fruit below the rind: the importance of subcortical structures in cognition
Michael Ullman1, Tanya M. Evans2, Mariann Kiss3, Leela Shah2, Hal Blumenfeld4, Karolina Janacsek5,6; 1Georgetown University, 2Curry School of Education and Human Development, and Brain Institute, University of Virginia, 3Doctoral School of Psychology, Budapest Institute of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary, 4Yale School of Medicine, 5Institute of Psychology, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary, 6Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
Till now, the cognitive neurosciences have focused largely on cerebral cortex, the gray matter ‘rind’ enveloping the cerebrum. This emphasis on cortex is found in both theoretical and empirical research in many areas of cognition, including attention, executive function, memory, language, reading, music, and math. But there is much more to the brain than cortex: cortex is but part of the telencephalon, which is part of the forebrain, which is part of the entire brain. So do subcortical structures also support cognition? This might be expected, given that subcortical regions underlie cognition in non-human animals, and the evolutionary principle of cooptation might extend their cognitive roles even further. Indeed, increasing evidence suggests that subcortical gray matter subserves aspects of human cognition. However, the potential importance of subcortical regions in typical and atypical cognition has not yet been widely accepted. Here we aim to help rectify this situation. We highlight the problem, and comprehensively summarize evidence regarding both known and potential cognitive roles for subcortical structures throughout the brain. The evidence suggests that numerous brainstem, diencencephalic, and telencephalic subcortical regions support cognition, from the pons and red nucleus to the hypothalamus, epithalamus, septal nuclei, claustrum, and basal ganglia. These and other structures underlie cognitive functions ranging from attention and memory to language and math, in typical functioning as well as dysfunction. The findings suggest that brain networks for cognition critically encompass subcortical as well as cortical structures. The fruit beneath the rind might indeed be juicier than the rind itself.
Topic Area: NEUROANATOMY