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Brain Behav Evol. 2011;78(1):37-50. doi: 10.1159/000327319. Epub 2011 Jun 17.

Variability in neuron densities across the cortical sheet in primates.

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Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240, USA.


The function of any area of the brain is a product of its unique population of neurons and nonneurons and their local and long-range connectional architecture. At the present time, we have inadequate data about numbers of neurons and the distribution patterns of neurons in the cortex and other parts of the brain. Numbers and densities of neurons and nonneurons provide the foundation for the assembly of a cortical and whole-brain neuronal network, yet the majority of studies reporting neuron densities for the primate cortex estimate the number of neurons in the cortex as a whole or in specific areas for comparisons between treatment groups or species. While this is valuable information for studies of scaling or comparative studies of specific pathways or functions, a more detailed examination of cell and neuron number distribution across the entire cortical expanse is needed. Two studies reviewed here use the isotropic fractionator method for the determination of cell and neuron numbers to investigate the distribution of cells and neurons across the entire cortical sheet of 4 primate species, taking into consideration cortical areal boundaries. Neuron and total cell numbers were found to vary as much as 5 times between different functional areas across the cortical sheet. Numbers were also variable across representational zones within cortical areas like V1 and S1. The overall distribution of cells and neurons appears to be conserved across the species examined, suggesting a common plan for cell distribution in primates, with more areas of high neuron density in macaques and baboons compared to the smaller and less differentiated cortex of prosimian galagos and the New World owl monkey.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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