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cortical column

n. hypercolumn

Cortical column

A cortical column, also called hypercolumn, macrocolumn or sometimes cortical module, is a group of neurons in the cortex of the brain that can be successively penetrated by a probe inserted perpendicularly to the cortical surface, and which have nearly identical receptive fields. Neurons within a minicolumn (microcolumn) encode similar features, whereas a hypercolumn "denotes a unit containing a full set of values for any given set of receptive field parameters". A cortical module is defined as either synonymous with a hypercolumn (Mountcastle) or as a tissue block of multiple overlapping hypercolumns.

It is still unclear what precisely is meant by the term, and it does not correspond to any single structure within the cortex. It has been impossible to find a canonical microcircuit that corresponds to the cortical column, and no genetic mechanism has been deciphered that designates how to construct a column. However, the columnar organization hypothesis is currently the most widely adopted to explain the cortical processing of information.