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Histological features of layers and sublayers in cortical visual areas V1 and V2 of chimpanzees, macaque monkeys, and humans

Authors Balaram P, Young N, Kaas J

Received 22 December 2013

Accepted for publication 20 February 2014

Published 23 September 2014 Volume 2014:6(Thematic series: Organization and function of the visual system in primates) Pages 5—18


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Pooja Balaram, Nicole A Young, Jon H Kaas

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

Abstract: The layers and sublayers of primary visual cortex, or V1, in primates are easily distinguishable compared to those in other cortical areas, and are especially distinct in anthropoid primates – monkeys, apes, and humans – where they also vary in histological appearance. This variation in primate-specific specialization has led to a longstanding confusion over the identity of layer 4 and its proposed sublayers in V1. As the application of different histological markers relate to the issue of defining and identifying layers and sublayers, we applied four traditional and four more recent histological markers to brain sections of V1 and adjoining secondary visual cortex (V2) in macaque monkeys, chimpanzees, and humans in order to compare identifiable layers and sublayers in both cortical areas across these species. The use of Nissl, neuronal nuclear antigen (NeuN), Gallyas myelin, cytochrome oxidase (CO), acetylcholinesterase (AChE), nonphosphorylated neurofilament H (SMI-32), parvalbumin (PV), and vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) preparations support the conclusion that the most popular scheme of V1 lamination, that of Brodmann, misidentifies sublayers of layer 3 (3Bβ and 3C) as sublayers of layer 4 (4A and 4B), and that the specialized sublayer of layer 3 in monkeys, 3Bβ, is not present in humans. These differences in interpretation are important as they relate to the proposed functions of layer 4 in primate species, where layer 4 of V1 is a layer that receives and processes information from the visual thalamus, and layer 3 is a layer that transforms and distributes information to other cortical areas.

Keywords: area 17, area 18, cortical layers, histology, immunohistochemistry

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