Association Cortex and Perceptual Processing

The cortical association areas (Figure 9-8) are brain areas that lie outside the primary cortical sensory or motor areas but are adjacent to them. The association areas are not considered part of the sensory pathways but rather play a role in the progressively more complex analysis of incoming information.

Although neurons in the earlier stages of the sensory pathways are associated with perception, information from the primary sensory cortical areas is elaborated after it is relayed to a cortical association area. The region of association cortex closest to the primary sensory cortical area processes the information in fairly simple ways and serves basic sensory-related functions. Regions farther from the primary sensory areas process the information in more complicated ways, including, for example, greater input from areas of the brain serving arousal, attention, memory, and language. Some of the neurons in these latter regions also receive input concerning two or more other types of sensory stimuli. Thus, an association-area neuron receiving input from both the visual cortex and the "neck" region of the somatosensory cortex might be concerned with integrating visual information with sensory information about head position so that, for example, a tree is understood to be vertical even though the viewer's head is tipped sideways.

Frontal lobe association area

Auditory — cortex

Frontal lobe association area

Association Areas The Cortex

Somatosensory cortex

Parietal lobe association area

Visual cortex

Occipital lobe association area

Temporal lobe association area

Somatosensory cortex

Parietal lobe association area

Temporal lobe association area

Visual cortex

Occipital lobe association area

FIGURE 9-8

Areas of association cortex.

Fibers from neurons of the parietal and temporal lobes go to association areas in the frontal lobes that are part of the limbic system. Through these connections, sensory information can be invested with emotional and motivational significance.

Further perceptual processing involves not only arousal, attention, learning, memory, language, and emotions, but also comparing the information presented via one type of sensation with that of another. For example, we may hear a growling dog, but our perception of the event and our emotional response vary markedly, depending upon whether our visual system detects the sound source to be an angry animal or a loudspeaker.

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Responses

  • yonas kifle
    What is the function of somatosensory association area?
    6 years ago

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