Cite this article

NIDA. (2009, September 1). Word of the Day: Cerebral Cortex. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
September 1 2009
Woman cracking a nut

What do walnuts and our Word of the Day have in common?

Well, it’s a stretch, but fun to think about. If you crack open a walnut carefully, you can see it has two “sides”—just like the human brain. And that’s where our “word of the day” comes in.

The cerebral cortex covers most of the other brain parts inside your head—making up two-thirds of the brain’s mass. No surprise, since the cerebral cortex is what allows us to speak and understand, learn languages, play music, and a lot more.

Like a walnut, the cerebral cortex has two sides called “hemispheres.” The left hemisphere rules things like our ability to talk, write, and learn languages. The right hemisphere rules our musical abilities, and how we figure out distances and other “spatial” challenges. For example, does it look like you and all your friends can fit into that diner booth? Oops, not quite.

And that’s not all. Our sense of touch also uses both hemispheres of our brain! Walnuts anyone?

For more brainy words and others, check out NIDA’s glossary.