Is the cerebrum and the cerebral cortex the same?

The brain is a fascinating organ, but sometimes it can be confusing to differentiate between its various parts. One question that gets asked quite often is whether the cerebrum and cerebral cortex are interchangeable terms. This article will delve into this inquiry, providing definitions of each term, discussing their functions and differences, dispelling any misconceptions surrounding them and demonstrating why knowing the difference matters.

A quick look at neuroanatomy

Before delving into anything else, let’s start with some basic neuroscience terminologies; you’ll have a better understanding of things if you’re familiarized with these terms:

Brain stem

The brainstem connects your spinal cord to your brain. It also controls vital functions like heart rate or breathing.


This part of our brains looks like cauliflower on steroids! The main function of this part consists in motion coordination and balance regulation.


The largest component which constitutes around ~85% of our brain mass!

It always feels good when an expert in neuroscience confirms what we already suspect ourselves: “I think therefore I am” – indeed Rene Descartes was right all along; he considered thoughts as proof for existence – something that couldn’t be doubted because doubting would require thought itself. And where do such thoughts come from exactly? Well…drumrolls please…..the answer lies in “CEREBRUM”.

Let’s define some key concepts: Cerebral Cortex vs. Cerebrum

Cerebral Cortex

If we zoomed inside the cerebrum/brain then guess what you’ll find first? While mesmerizing layers await us within, initially…we encounter “cortical lobes”. These are sections forming outermost layer which encloses most recent evolutionary (possibly yet-to-evolve) regions responsible for cognitive expression.These cortical lobes are collectively referred to as Cerebral Cortex.


The cerebrum, on the other hand, is a larger entity that houses several different areas and lobes, including the cerebral cortex. It stores our memories and perception of senses during consciousness. Our movement too – voluntary muscle activity is initiated here while also controlling all sorts of sensations from smelling roses to seeing sunsets.

What Is The Function Of The Cerebrum And Cerebral Cortex?

Understanding how these two parts function differently may help in establishing their unique individuation:

Functions of the cerebral cortex

  • Conscious thought processing/ analysis
  • Memory creation & storage
  • Perception
  • Voluntary motor ability

In addition to this; it’s divided into four major lobes named as:
1)Frontal Lobe,
2)Temporal Lobe,
3)Occipital Lobe &
4)Parietal lobe.
Each lobe having its diverse role: frontal for executive functioning or temporal catering auditory aspects; occipital providing vision or parietal working for sensory input.

Functions of cerebrum

As mentioned above cerebrum constitutes ~85% brain matter so functions encompass wider range than just cortical activities. Some highlighting points includes:

  • Processing/functioning starting from perception reaching action/response.
  • Ongoing conscious behavior regulation . e.g decision making
  • Motor coordination (with indirect connection with spinal cord via midbrain)

Misconceptions Surrounding Cerebral Cortex vs. Cerebrum

It’s no secret that medical jargon could be overwhelming at times nonetheless accidentally mistaking one brain part with another won’t bode well.

Here are some clarifications in tabular form:

1. ‘Cortex’ ‘Cerebral cortex’
2. Cerebellum Entire cerebrum
3. Medulla Oblongata/ Brainstem None and
usually not described together with them.

Yes, it’s understandable that medical jargon could be baffling at times – Nonetheless, accidentally substituting one terminology for the other leads to overt misunderstanding.
Jokingly calling your grandma’s cerebrospinal fluid as ‘spinach soup’ may add some light-heartedness between her dialysis but mislabeling distinct cortical structures? A Bit too far.

Why Is It Important To Differentiate Between The Two?

As a final thought let’s summarize why differentiation matters:

  • Wrong diagnoses are often prescribed due to similarity of cerebral terminologies
  • Precision counts: Medical Staff must have the correct knowledge – For instance while dealing with patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease; basal ganglia is affected not cerebral cortex!
  • Miscommunication should also be avoided when discussing research or treatment plans amongst neurologists themselves.

In conclusion yes, these two parts do represent different structures within our brains. Precise usage of either term is crucialer in both every day conversation (light toss) or even medical purview (cue Scrubs soundtrack). Don’t get confused by deceptively similar terms – getting clarification always helps!

PS: Whenever confidence wavers just repeat “Corsican Brotherhood” for remembering major four lobes!

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