The diameter of cortical axons depends both on the area of origin and target

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Aug;24(8):2178-88. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht070. Epub 2013 Mar 25.


In primates, different cortical areas send axons of different diameters into comparable tracts, notably the corpus callosum (Tomasi S, Caminiti R, Innocenti GM. 2012. Areal differences in diameter and length of corticofugal projections. Cereb Cortex. 22:1463-1472). We now explored if an area also sends axons of different diameters to different targets. We find that the parietal area PEc sends thicker axons to area 4 and 6, and thinner ones to the cingulate region (area 24). Areas 4 and 9, each sends axons of different diameters to the nucleus caudatus, to different levels of the internal capsule, and to the thalamus. The internal capsule receives the thickest axon, followed by thalamus and nucleus caudatus. The 2 areas (4 and 9) differ in the diameter and length of axons to corresponding targets. We calculated how diameter determines conduction velocity of the axons and together with pathway length determines transmission delays between different brain sites. We propose that projections from and within the cerebral cortex consist of a complex system of lines of communication with different geometrical and time computing properties.

Keywords: conduction velocity; cortical area; internal capsule; nucleus caudatus; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons* / physiology
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dextrans
  • Macaca
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques
  • Photomicrography


  • Dextrans
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • Biotin