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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2007 Jan;290(1):83-95.

Total neocortical cell number in the mysticete brain.

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Research Laboratory for Stereology and Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The cetacean brain has long been of scientific interest, not only because of its large size - the largest in the animal kingdom - but also because of its high gyrification. It shows several adaptations to the aquatic environment, especially in the cortical arrangements of functional areas. To study structural aspects of the mysticete brain we estimated neocortical features in the common minke whale using stereological methods. The neocortex was surprisingly thick, equal to that in humans. The total neocortical neuron number was 12.8 x 10(9), and the total neocortical glia number 98.2 x 10(9). Total cell numbers in the auditory and visual cortex were also estimated, and showed that the auditory cortex contained more cells than the visual cortex. In this small sample, no sexual dimorphism was seen within the neocortex of the common minke whale. Our aim was to estimate the total cell number, cortical volume and cell density in the entire mysticete neocortex and compare the total cell number in the auditory cortex with that of the visual cortex using stereological methods. Here, we used the common minke whale as a model of all mysticetes. We wanted to compare these neocortical features to those of other mammals to forward understanding of the evolution of the mammalian brain.

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