Areal specialization of pyramidal cell structure in the visual cortex of the tree shrew: a new twist revealed in the evolution of cortical circuitry

Exp Brain Res. 2005 May;163(1):13-20. doi: 10.1007/s00221-004-2131-7. Epub 2005 Jan 20.


Cortical pyramidal cells, while having a characteristic morphology, show marked phenotypic variation in primates. Differences have been reported in their size, branching structure and spine density between cortical areas. In particular, there is a systematic increase in the complexity of the structure of pyramidal cells with anterior progression through occipito-temporal cortical visual areas. These differences reflect area-specific specializations in cortical circuitry, which are believed to be important for visual processing. However, it remains unknown as to whether these regional specializations in pyramidal cell structure are restricted to primates. Here we investigated pyramidal cell structure in the visual cortex of the tree shrew, including the primary (V1), second (V2) and temporal dorsal (TD) areas. As in primates, there was a trend for more complex branching structure with anterior progression through visual areas in the tree shrew. However, contrary to the trend reported in primates, cells in the tree shrew tended to become smaller with anterior progression through V1, V2 and TD. In addition, pyramidal cells in V1 of the tree shrew are more than twice as spinous as those in primates. These data suggest that variables that shape the structure of adult cortical pyramidal cells differ among species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Shape
  • Cell Size
  • Dendritic Spines
  • Female
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Species Specificity
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*