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Cornu Ammonis Regions–Antecedents of Cortical Layers?

Mercer, A; Thomson, AM; (2017) Cornu Ammonis Regions–Antecedents of Cortical Layers? Frontiers in Neuroanatomy , 11 , Article 83. 10.3389/fnana.2017.00083. Green open access

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Abstract

Studying neocortex and hippocampus in parallel, we are struck by the similarities. All three to four layered allocortices and the six layered mammalian neocortex arise in the pallium. All receive and integrate multiple cortical and subcortical inputs, provide multiple outputs and include an array of neuronal classes. During development, each cell positions itself to sample appropriate local and distant inputs and to innervate appropriate targets. Simpler cortices had already solved the need to transform multiple coincident inputs into serviceable outputs before neocortex appeared in mammals. Why then do phylogenetically more recent cortices need multiple pyramidal cell layers? A simple answer is that more neurones can compute more complex functions. The dentate gyrus and hippocampal CA regions—which might be seen as hippocampal antecedents of neocortical layers—lie side by side, albeit around a tight bend. Were the millions of cells of rat neocortex arranged in like fashion, the surface area of the CA pyramidal cell layers would be some 40 times larger. Even if evolution had managed to fold this immense sheet into the space available, the distances between neurones that needed to be synaptically connected would be huge and to maintain the speed of information transfer, massive, myelinated fiber tracts would be needed. How much more practical to stack the “cells that fire and wire together” into narrow columns, while retaining the mechanisms underlying the extraordinary precision with which circuits form. This demonstrably efficient arrangement presents us with challenges, however, not the least being to categorize the baffling array of neuronal subtypes in each of five “pyramidal layers.” If we imagine the puzzle posed by this bewildering jumble of apical dendrites, basal dendrites and axons, from many different pyramidal and interneuronal classes, that is encountered by a late-arriving interneurone insinuating itself into a functional circuit, we can perhaps begin to understand why definitive classification, covering every aspect of each neurone’s structure and function, is such a challenge. Here, we summarize and compare the development of these two cortices, the properties of their neurones, the circuits they form and the ordered, unidirectional flow of information from one hippocampal region, or one neocortical layer, to another.

Type: Article
Title: Cornu Ammonis Regions–Antecedents of Cortical Layers?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fnana.2017.00083
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnana.2017.00083
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 Mercer and Thomson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Neocortex, hippocampus, pyramidal cells, interneurones, development, neuronal circuitry, neocortical columns
UCL classification: UCL
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URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10022754
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