This study presents a comparative stereologic investigation of neurofilament protein- and calcium-binding protein-immunoreactive neurons within the region of orofacial representation of primary motor cortex (Brodmann's area 4) in several catarrhine primate species (Macaca fascicularis, Papio anubis, Pongo pygmaeus, Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, and Homo sapiens). Results showed that the density of interneurons involved in vertical interlaminar processing (i.e., calbindin- and calretinin-immunoreactive neurons) as well pyramidal neurons that supply heavily-myelinated projections (i.e., neurofilament protein-immunoreactive neurons) are correlated with overall neuronal density, whereas interneurons making transcolumnar connections (i.e., parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons) do not exhibit such a relationship. These results suggest that differential scaling rules apply to different neuronal subtypes depending on their functional role in cortical circuitry. For example, cortical columns across catarrhine species appear to involve a similar conserved network of intracolumnar inhibitory interconnections, as represented by the distribution of calbindin- and calretinin-immunoreactive neurons. The subpopulation of horizontally-oriented wide-arbor interneurons, on the other hand, increases in density relative to other interneuron subpopulations in large brains. Due to these scaling trends, the region of orofacial representation of primary motor cortex in great apes and humans is characterized by a greater proportion of neurons enriched in neurofilament protein and parvalbumin compared to the Old World monkeys examined. These modifications might contribute to the voluntary dexterous control of orofacial muscles in great ape and human communication.
Copyright 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel