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Anat Rec. 1997 Jan;247(1):119-28.

Effects of aging on numbers and sizes of neurons in histochemically defined subregions of monkey striate cortex.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.



In addition to its horizontal layers, primate striate cortex has a vertical modular organization. Among the vertical modules are histochemically defined areas of high and low cytochrome oxidase labeling in the supragranular layers, referred to, respectively, as blobs and interblobs. Cytochrome c oxidase (CO) blobs and interblobs differ in their inputs from the magnocellular and parvocellular visual pathways, their physiological properties, and many aspects of their neurochemistry. The present study investigated whether aging differentially affects neuron numbers or sizes in the supragranular blobs or interblobs.


The right hemisphere from three young adult (5.2-12.4 years) and four old (24.0-26.7 years) rhesus monkeys was used. Tangential sections through the central visual-field representation were stained for CO and counterstained with cresyl violet. Montages were constructed through cortical layers 2 and 3, and neuron counts and size measurements were made in blob and interblob regions using stereological procedures that yield unbiased estimates. Blob density also was calculated.


CO blob density was 3.76/mm2 in young adults and 3.95/mm2 in old animals, a difference that was not statistically significant. Neuron soma sizes also did not differ significantly between young adult and old animals or between blob and interblob regions. In addition, neuron density was not significantly different between young adult and old animals. However, independent of age, neuron density was significantly higher in the center of interblobs (394,058 cells/mm3) than in the center of blobs (333,638/mm3).


Our results and those of previous studies (Vincent et al. 1989. Anat. Rec. 223:329-341; Peters and Sethares. 1993. Anat. Rec. 236:721-729) suggest that aging has little or no effect on the densities or sizes of the different functional or morphological types of neurons that exist in the different cortical layers or in the different vertical modules marked by CO blobs and interblobs. These findings are consistent with the results of our previous anatomical and physiological studies of the rhesus monkey retina and lateral geniculate nucleus. These results suggest that the retinogenic-ulostriate pathways are relatively unaffected by aging in the rhesus monkey.

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