Organization of pyramidal neurons in area 17 of monkey visual cortex

J Comp Neurol. 1991 Apr 1;306(1):1-23. doi: 10.1002/cne.903060102.


In sections of area 17 of monkey visual cortex treated with an antibody to MAP2 the disposition of the cell bodies and dendrites of the neurons is readily visible. In such preparations it is evident that the apical dendrites of the pyramidal cells of layer VI form fascicles that pass into layer IV, where most of them gradually taper and form their terminal tufts. In contrast, the apical dendrites of the smaller layer V pyramidal cells come together in a more regular fashion. They form clusters that pass through layer IV and into layer II/III where the apical dendrites of many of the pyramidal cells in that layer add to the clusters. In horizontal sections taken through the middle of layer IV, these clusters of apical dendrites are found to have an average center-to-center spacing of about 30 microns, and it is proposed that each cluster of apical dendrites represents the axis of a module of pyramidal cells that has a diameter of about 30 microns and contains about 142 neurons. The MAP2 antibody reaction also reveals that some pyramidal cells in layers IVA and IVB have their cell bodies arranged into cones. There are about 118 such cones beneath 1 mm2 of cortical surface and the apical dendrites of the pyramidal cells within them bundle together at the apex of each cone to pass into layer III. Surrounding the cones of neurons there are horizontally aligned, thin dendrites. The location of these dendrites coincides with the dark walls of the honeycomb pattern seen in layer IVA after cytochrome oxidase reactions, or after the parvocellular input from the lateral geniculate nucleus has been labeled. Thus the cones of pyramidal cells within upper layer IV fit into the pockets of the honeycomb pattern. Below the cones of pyramidal cells are the outer Meynert cells within layer IVB, and the cell bodies of these large neurons are disposed so that they preferentially lie beneath the neuropil between the cones of pyramids. It is suggested that pyramidal cell modules are a basic feature of the cerebral cortex, and that these are combined together by afferent inputs to the cortex to generate the systems of functional columns.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / immunology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / enzymology
  • Visual Cortex / ultrastructure


  • Antibodies
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Electron Transport Complex IV