One of the most exciting and open research frontiers in neuroscience is that of seeking to understand the functional roles of the layers of cerebral cortex. New experimental techniques for probing the laminar circuitry of cortex have recently been developed, opening up novel opportunities for investigating how its six-layered architecture contributes to perception and cognition. The task of trying to interpret this complex structure can be facilitated by theoretical analyses of the types of computations that cortex is carrying out, and of how these might be implemented in specific cortical circuits. We have recently developed a detailed neural model of how the parvocellular stream of the visual cortex utilizes its feedforward, feedback and horizontal interactions for purposes of visual filtering, attention and perceptual grouping. This model, called LAMINART, shows how these perceptual processes relate to the mechanisms that ensure the stable development of cortical circuits in the infant, and to the continued stability of learning in the adult. The present article reviews this laminar theory of visual cortex, considers how it may be generalized towards a more comprehensive theory that encompasses other cortical areas and cognitive processes, and shows how its laminar framework generates a variety of testable predictions.