Structure Defines Function
The neocortex is built from five principal-cell types and numerous classes of interneurons. Early formulation of cortical structure emphasized the modularity of the neocortex. Its robust local tensegrity organization has allowed for continuous growth. Medium- and long-range connections that compose the white matter and interconnect nonadjacent cortical neuronal circuits are relatively sparse but sufficient to keep the synaptic path lengths constant in brains of different sizes. Such interconnectedness is a prerequisite for global operations in finite temporal windows. The small-world-like, scale-free organization of cortical architecture may provide some quantitative rules for the growth of both cell numbers and associated axonal connections while minimizing the cost of connectivity, though available anatomical data indicate that cortical areas processing similar kinds of information are more strongly connected than required. Limiting excitatory spread and segregation of computation are solved by balanced interactions between the excitatory principal cells and inhibitory interneurons.
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