Large-scale cortical networks and cognition

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1995 Mar;20(3):288-304. doi: 10.1016/0165-0173(94)00016-i.


The well-known parcellation of the mammalian cerebral cortex into a large number of functionally distinct cytoarchitectonic areas presents a problem for understanding the complex cortical integrative functions that underlie cognition. How do cortical areas having unique individual functional properties cooperate to accomplish these complex operations? Do neurons distributed throughout the cerebral cortex act together in large-scale functional assemblages? This review examines the substantial body of evidence supporting the view that complex integrative functions are carried out by large-scale networks of cortical areas. Pathway tracing studies in non-human primates have revealed widely distributed networks of interconnected cortical areas, providing an anatomical substrate for large-scale parallel processing of information in the cerebral cortex. Functional coactivation of multiple cortical areas has been demonstrated by neurophysiological studies in non-human primates and several different cognitive functions have been shown to depend on multiple distributed areas by human neuropsychological studies. Electrophysiological studies on interareal synchronization have provided evidence that active neurons in different cortical areas may become not only coactive, but also functionally interdependent. The computational advantages of synchronization between cortical areas in large-scale networks have been elucidated by studies using artificial neural network models. Recent observations of time-varying multi-areal cortical synchronization suggest that the functional topology of a large-scale cortical network is dynamically reorganized during visuomotor behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*