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Neuron. 2007 Oct 25;56(2):284-300.

Development of continuous and discrete neural maps.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Two qualitatively different kinds of neural map have been described: continuous maps exemplified by the visual retinotopic map, and discrete maps exemplified by the olfactory glomerular map. Here, we review developmental mechanisms of retinotopic and olfactory glomerular mapping and discuss underlying commonalities that have emerged from recent studies. These include the use of molecular gradients, axon-axon interactions, and the interplay between labeling molecules and neuronal activity in establishing these maps. Since visual retinotopic and olfactory glomerular maps represent two ends of a continuum that includes many other types of neural map in between, these emerging general principles may be widely applicable to map formation throughout the nervous system.

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