Skip to Main Content


The long-standing controversy about cerebral functions, whether they are diffusely represented in the cerebrum with all parts roughly equivalent, or localized to certain lobes or regions, has been resolved to the satisfaction of most neurologists. Clinicians have demonstrated beyond doubt that particular functions are assignable to certain cortical regions. For example, the pre- and postrolandic zones control motor and sensory activities, respectively, the striate occipital zones control visual perception, the superior temporal gyri are auditory, and so on. Beyond these broad correlations, however, there is a notable lack of precision in the cortical localization of most of the behavioral and mental operations described in Chaps. 20 and 21. In particular, of the higher order functions, such as attention, vigilance, apperception, and analytic and synthetic thinking, none has a precise and predictable anatomy; or, more accurately, the neural systems on which they depend are widely distributed among several regions.


One may inquire into what precisely is meant by cerebral localization. Does it refer to the physiologic function of a circumscribed group of neurons in the cerebral cortex, indicated clinically by a loss of that function when the neurons in question are destroyed? This is the way in which neurologists have assigned functions to particular areas of the cerebral cortex. However, from what we know of the rich connectivity of all parts of the specialized cortical centers, one must assume that this is only partly the case. Most who ponder this subject believe that the organization of cerebral function is based on discrete networks of closely interconnected afferent and efferent neurons in several regions of the brain. These ensembles must be linked by both regional and more widespread systems of fibers. This is especially apparent in the discussion of the anatomy of complex cognitive properties such as intelligence, as described in Chap. 21. Thus, many basic functions are anchored in one cortical region and a lesion there causes loss of a particular ability. But it is apparent from physiologic studies such as functional imaging and electromagnetic stimulation that widely distributed networks are engaged, which nonetheless encompasses the region that can be ablated and eliminate the function in question.


These aspects of cerebral localization—brought out so clearly in the writings of Wernicke, Déjerine, and Liepmann, have been elaborated by Luria (1966 and 1969) and the Russian school of physiologists and psychologists and extended by Geschwind (1965). In keeping with the model of interconnected networks, they viewed function not as the direct property of a particular, highly specialized region of the cerebrum but as the product of complex, diffusely distributed activity by which sensory stimuli are analyzed and integrated at various levels of the nervous system and then united, through a system of temporarily acquired connections, into a working mosaic adapted to accomplish a particular task. To some extent, this model has been corroborated by functional imaging studies, which show increased metabolic activity in several cortical regions during almost every form ...

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.