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J Comp Neurol. 2010 Apr 15;518(8):1176-98. doi: 10.1002/cne.22264.

Comparative analyses of the neuron numbers and volumes of the amygdaloid complex in old and new world primates.

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  • 1Neurosciences Program, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The amygdaloid complex (AC), a key component of the limbic system, is a brain region critical for the detection and interpretation of emotionally salient information. Therefore, changes in its structure and function are likely to provide correlates of mood and emotion disorders, diseases that afflict a large portion of the human population. Previous gross comparisons of the AC in control and diseased individuals have, however, mainly failed to discover these expected correlations with diseases. We have characterized AC nuclei in different nonhuman primate species to establish a baseline for more refined comparisons between the normal and the diseased amygdala. AC nuclei volume and neuron number in 19 subdivisions are reported from 13 Old and New World primate brains, spanning five primate species, and compared with corresponding data from humans. Analysis of the four largest AC nuclei revealed that volume and neuron number of one component, the central nucleus, has a negative allometric relationship with total amygdala volume and neuron number, which is in contrast with the isometric relationship found in the other AC nuclei (for both neuron number and volume). Neuron density decreases across all four nuclei according to a single power law with an exponent of about minus one-half. Because we have included quantitative comparisons with great apes and humans, our conclusions apply to human brains, and our scaling laws can potentially be used to study the anatomical correlates of the amygdala in disorders involving pathological emotion processing.

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