We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Cortical Neuron?

By Greg Caramenico
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Cortical neurons are the cells of the brain's largest region, the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. Most of the complex activity of the brain enabling thought, perception, and voluntary movement is connected to the activity of these neurons. The brain has more than a dozen types of cortical neurons, broadly classified by whether they activate or inhibit neural activity. These nerve cells communicate with each other through chemical and electrical signaling, and often use molecules called neurotransmitters to send messages at junctions called synapses.

The main functional cell type of the brain's cerebral cortex is the cortical neuron. These neurons are packed into the cortex, also called the gray matter, which is up to four millimeters thick along both cerebral hemispheres. Cortical neuron activity moderates perception and communication in the brain, and also effects musculoskeletal control, the basis of voluntary movement, like walking. It is important to note that while many psychophysical phenomena seem to depend on the cerebral cortex, no single region or individual neuron can account for complex mental activity, which is often spread out among many different networks of millions of neurons working together.

The surface of the cerebral cortex is folded into many grooves of various depths, called sulci, enabling a large number of neurons to fit into the relatively small area of the hemispheres. Here, neurons are arranged in six layers. Different types of cortical neurons populate these layers, from I to VI, which are identified by laboratory staining techniques and by their different sizes and shapes. Some types of neurons stimulate electrical firing and are called excitatory neurons; others stop or slow electrical activity and are deemed inhibitory neurons. A third category, interneurons, facilitate communication between these types of neurons.

Cortical neurons communicate with each other at junctions called synapses, located at hundreds of sites on the outer surface of any given cell. At a synaptic site, two cell membranes come into proximity, and both of them have lots of molecular structures called receptors that enable them to receive messages from each other. Electrical synapses convey signals between neurons in the form of a current called an action potential, while chemical synapses rely on neurotransmitters released by one cell and then bind to the other cell in the synapse.

Major excitatory cortical neuron types include pyramidal cells and spiny stellate cells. The former were named for their triangular cell bodies and have extensive connections with other neurons in the cortex and beyond. Inhibitory neurons come in many varieties, including basket and chandelier cells, and the smooth, spineless stellate cells, named for their lack of spiny projections to other nerves. Both groups of cortical neuron use chemical signaling to interact with adjacent cells, relying on specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters for this purpose. Excitatory neurons often use the neurotransmitter glutamate, while inhibitory cells predominantly signal through the compound GABA.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.