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White matter of the brain

 

White matter is found in the deeper tissues of the brain (subcortical). It contains nerve fibers (axons), which are extensions of nerve cells (neurons). Many of these nerve fibers are surrounded by a type of sheath or covering called myelin. Myelin gives the white matter its color. It also protects the nerve fibers from injury and improves the speed and transmission of electrical nerve signals.

By comparison, gray matter is tissue found on the surface of the brain (cortical). It contains the cell bodies of neurons, which give gray matter its color.

 

References

Calabresi PA. Multiple sclerosis and demyelinating conditions of the central nervous system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 419.

Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 403.

 
  • Brain

    Brain - illustration

    The major areas of the brain have one or more specific functions.

    Brain

    illustration

  • Gray and white matter of the brain

    Gray and white matter of the brain - illustration

    The tissue called "gray matter" in the brain and spinal cord is also known as substantia grisea, and is made up of cell bodies. "White matter", or substantia alba, is composed of nerve fibers.

    Gray and white matter of the brain

    illustration

    • Brain

      Brain - illustration

      The major areas of the brain have one or more specific functions.

      Brain

      illustration

    • Gray and white matter of the brain

      Gray and white matter of the brain - illustration

      The tissue called "gray matter" in the brain and spinal cord is also known as substantia grisea, and is made up of cell bodies. "White matter", or substantia alba, is composed of nerve fibers.

      Gray and white matter of the brain

      illustration

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            Review Date: 2/3/2015

            Reviewed By: Armit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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