Transmitter receptors and functional anatomy of the cerebral cortex

J Anat. 2004 Dec;205(6):417-32. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-8782.2004.00357.x.


The currently available architectonic maps of the human cerebral cortex do not match the high degree of cortical segregation as shown by functional imaging. Such functional imaging studies have demonstrated a considerable number of functionally specialized areas not displayed in the architectonic maps. We therefore analysed the regional and laminar distribution of various transmitter receptors in the human cerebral cortex, because these signalling molecules play a crucial role in cortical functions. They may provide a novel and functionally more relevant insight into the regional organization of the cortex, which cannot be achieved by architectonic observations in cell body- or myelin-stained sections. Serial cryostat sections through whole human hemispheres were used for quantitative receptor autoradiography. The regional and laminar densities of numerous receptors of classic transmitter systems were analysed. Alternating sections were stained for comparisons based on cyto- or myeloarchitectonic criteria. Our results demonstrate that the regional distribution of transmitter receptors reflects well-established cyto- and myeloarchitectonically defined borders of cortical areas, but in addition enables the identification of more cortical areas than previously demonstrated. Moreover, the laminar distribution patterns of a given receptor type in different cortical areas as well as those of different receptor types in the same cortical area reveal novel and functionally relevant data concerning the intracortical organization in the human cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autoradiography
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Microtomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / analysis*
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / physiology
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter