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The information contained on this page is provided as general health information and is not intended to substitute as medical advice and direction from your physician or health care provider. Please direct any questions related to your health care provider. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency center.


White matter of the brain

Information

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. Also, it 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.

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BrainGray and white matter of the brain

References

Calabresi PA. Multiple sclerosis and demyelinating conditions of the central nervous system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 411.

Haines DE, Mihailoff GA, Yezierski RP. The spinal cord. In: Haines DE, ed. Fundamental Neuroscience for Basic and Clinical Applications. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 9.

Ransom BR, Goldberg MP, Arai K, Baltan S. White matter pathophysiology. In: Grotta JC, Albers GW, Broderick JP, et al, eds. Stroke: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Management. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 9.