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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Feb 6;352(2):161-86.

Neurofilament protein defines regional patterns of cortical organization in the macaque monkey visual system: a quantitative immunohistochemical analysis.

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Fishberg Research Center for Neurobiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.
Scripps Res Inst, La Jolla, CA


Visual function in monkeys is subserved at the cortical level by a large number of areas defined by their specific physiological properties and connectivity patterns. For most of these cortical fields, a precise index of their degree of anatomical specialization has not yet been defined, although many regional patterns have been described using Nissl or myelin stains. In the present study, an attempt has been made to elucidate the regional characteristics, and to varying degrees boundaries, of several visual cortical areas in the macaque monkey using an antibody to neurofilament protein (SMI32). This antibody labels a subset of pyramidal neurons with highly specific regional and laminar distribution patterns in the cerebral cortex. Based on the staining patterns and regional quantitative analysis, as many as 28 cortical fields were reliably identified. Each field had a homogeneous distribution of labeled neurons, except area V1, where increases in layer IVB cell and in Meynert cell counts paralleled the increase in the degree of eccentricity in the visual field representation. Within the occipitotemporal pathway, areas V3 and V4 and fields in the inferior temporal cortex were characterized by a distinct population of neurofilament-rich neurons in layers II-IIIa, whereas areas located in the parietal cortex and part of the occipitoparietal pathway had a consistent population of large labeled neurons in layer Va. The mediotemporal areas MT and MST displayed a distinct population of densely labeled neurons in layer VI. Quantitative analysis of the laminar distribution of the labeled neurons demonstrated that the visual cortical areas could be grouped in four hierarchical levels based on the ratio of neuron counts between infragranular and supragranular layers, with the first (areas V1, V2, V3, and V3A) and third (temporal and parietal regions) levels characterized by low ratios and the second (areas MT, MST, and V4) and fourth (frontal regions) levels characterized by high to very high ratios. Such density trends may correspond to differential representation of corticocortically (and corticosubcortically) projecting neurons at several functional steps in the integration of the visual stimuli. In this context, it is possible that neurofilament protein is crucial for the unique capacity of certain subsets of neurons to perform the highly precise mapping functions of the monkey visual system.

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