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White Matter vs. Grey Matter in the Brain and Spinal Cord

White Matter vs. Grey Matter in the Brain and Spinal Cord


The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of grey and white matter. Grey matter, named for it’s pale colour, is mostly composed of neuronal cell bodies, while white matter consists of myelinated nerve fibers. Together, these two types of tissue make up the brain and spinal cord. Grey matter is responsible for processing information, while white matter helps to transmit signals between different areas of the brain.

Grey matter refers to unmyelinated neurons and other cells of the central nervous system and is found in the brainbrainstem and cerebellum, and throughout the spinal cord. Grey matter is responsible for all the important brain functions. This tissue is found in the cerebellum, cerebrum, and brain stem. It also forms a large part of the central spinal cord. It also forms a butterfly-shaped portion of the central spinal cord.

White matter is key when it comes to the brain.  White matter is made up of a large network of nerve fibers (axons) in your brain that allows the exchange of information and communication between different areas of your brain It helps nerve signals travel up and down the spinal cord quickly and effectively. It is coated in myelin, a mixture of proteins and lipids that protects axons and helps them conduct nerve signals. The central nervous system plays a vital role in all aspects of human life, from movement and sensation to thought and emotion. damage to the CNS can lead to a wide range of problems, from temporary paralysis to chronic pain.

Grey Matter in the Brain

The grey matter surrounding the cerebrum is known as the cortex of the brain. The cortex is the part of your brain that’s responsible for all your major thinking. Unlike the structure of the spinal cord, the grey matter in the brain is present in the outermost layer. The cortex is divided into two sections: the cerebral cortex and the cerebellar cortex. The cerebellar cortex has more cells than any other part of your brain, and it’s also where you’ll find the highest concentration of neurons.

There are also areas of grey matter in the inner sections of your brain that play a vital role in your day-to-day functioning. These include the basal ganglia, which control things like movement and posture. Grey matter gets its grey tone from the high concentration of neuronal cell bodies it contains, while white matter is mainly composed of long-range myelinated axons. This transmission of signals is what makes white matter so important.

Gray Matter in the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is a long, thin bundle of nerves that extends from the brain down to the lower back. The spinal cord carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is enclosed in vertebrae, which are bones that make up the spine. The spinal cord consists of both grey matter and white matter. The grey matter is made up of nerve cells, and it is responsible for processing information. Grey matter makes up approximately 40 percent of the spinal cord, while white matter makes up approximately 60 percent. Together, these two types of tissue help to keep the spinal cord functioning properly.

Grey matter is also prominent in the spinal cord to help make neuro-transmission signaling more effective. The grey matter in the spinal cord is “butterfly” shaped and creates a hornlike structure throughout the inside of the spinal cord, while the white matter makes up the surrounding sections of the spinal cord. The gray matter of the spinal cord is a very important part of the central nervous system and is involved in muscle movement, sensory information like fine touch, kinesthesia, (your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location) and vibration, and more. 

A cross section of the spinal cord can be seen below:

White Matter in Brain

Think of white matter as the brains ‘highways’ – it’s responsible for the exchange of information and communication between different areas of your brain. White matter consists mostly of myelin-coated axons, which are long nerve fibers that transmit signals between neurons. Myelin is a white, fatty substance that insulates axons and increases the speed at which electrical impulses are conducted. Although white matter makes up only about one-half of the brain’s total volume, it contains nearly all of the brain’s myelinated axons. 

White matter plays an important role in ensuring that information travels smoothly between different regions of the brain. For example, white matter tracts connect the primary visual cortex (located at the back of the brain) to the secondary visual cortex (located in the front of the brain). This connection allows information about what we see to be processed in different parts of the brain before it unconsciously perceived. Additionally, white matter tracts connect the motor cortex (which controls movement) to the muscles and nerves throughout the body. 

Damage to white matter can have serious consequences. For example, damage to white matter in the front part of the brain can lead to problems with executive function, such as planning and decision-making. Damage to white matter in other parts of the brain can lead to problems with sensory processing, motor control, and communication. Understanding how white matter works is an important step towards developing treatments for conditions that result from white matter damage, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

White Matter of the Spinal Cord

The white matter is made up of nerve fibers, and it is responsible for carrying messages between different areas of the brain. The white matter of the spinal cord is made up of nerve fibers which purpose is to transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The white matter is essential for coordination and movement, as well as for carrying sensory information from the body to the brain. The spinal cord is filled with a jelly-like substance called cerebrospinal fluid, which helps to protect the delicate nerve fibers. The white matter is surrounded by a layer of connective tissue called the dura mater. This layer provides additional support and protection for the spinal cord.

What happens to grey and white matter during traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury?

Brain injury, whether from a traumatic event or disease, can cause damage to both grey and white matter. Grey matter is made up of neuronal cell bodies, dendrites, and axons, while white matter consists of nerve fibers (axons) that connect different areas of the brain. During brain injury, these nerve fibers can be stretched, twisted, or torn. This damage can disrupt the flow of information between different areas of the brain and lead to problems with cognition, movement, and sensation. In some cases, brain injury can also lead to the death of neural cells. While brain injury is difficult to recover from, intense physical and cognitive rehabilitation can help patients regain some level of cognitive function.

Traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) is a serious, often life-changing event. TSCI occurs when the spinal cord is damaged by an external force, such as a car or motorcycle accident. The most common type of TSCI is complete SCI, which means that the injured person will lose all feeling and movement below the point of injury. Incomplete SCI occurs when the cord is partially damaged, and the person may retain some feeling or movement. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, TSCI can result in tetraplegia (paralysis of all four limbs), paraplegia (paralysis of the lower limbs), or quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs and the torso). TSCI can also cause a number of secondary conditions, such as chronic pain, urinary and bowel problems, respiratory difficulties, and depression.

When the spinal cord is injured, it can cause a traumatic injury to the grey and white matter. If you recall the grey matter is responsible for processing information from the brain, while the white matter is responsible for sending messages to the muscles. In a traumatic spinal cord injury, the grey and white matter can be damaged or even destroyed. This can lead to paralysis, loss of sensation, and difficulty controlling movement. In some cases, the damage may be reversible, but in others, it can be permanent. Regardless of the outcome, a traumatic spinal cord injury is a serious condition that can have a profound impact on a person’s life.

If you’ve suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury or a Spinal Cord Injury we can help.

Since 2003 Lalande Personal Injury have recovered millions for victims who have suffered traumatic brain injury and traumatic spinal cord injuries. It you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury, our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help 24/7. We are experienced and familiar with catastrophic brain injury and spinal cord injury claims and can ensure that both your own insurance company and the insurance company at-fault provide you with the compensation you deserve. We will make sure that your future needs are fully projected in order to provide you economic security. 

Call our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers today no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/GTA/Niagara regions at 905-333-8888 and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, you may contact us online, confidentially, by filling out a contact form or having your social worker or nurse practitioner reach out to us on your behalf if you are unable to do do.  We will get back to you within 24 hours.

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