In adult humans the prefrontal cortex possesses wider minicolumns and more neuropil space than other cortical regions. These aspects of prefrontal cortex architecture, furthermore, are increased in comparison to chimpanzees and other great apes. In order to determine the developmental appearance of this human cortical specialization, we examined the spatial organization of neurons in four cortical regions (frontal pole [Brodmann's area 10], primary motor [area 4], primary somatosensory [area 3b], and prestriate visual cortex [area 18]) in chimpanzees and humans from birth to approximately the time of adolescence (11 years of age). Horizontal spacing distance (HSD) and gray level ratio (GLR) of layer III neurons were measured in Nissl-stained sections. In both human and chimpanzee area 10, HSD was significantly higher in the postweaning specimens compared to the preweaning ones. No significant age-related differences were seen in the other regions in either species. In concert with other recent studies, the current findings suggest that there is a relatively slower maturation of area 10 in both humans and chimpanzees as compared to other cortical regions, and that further refinement of the spatial organization of neurons within this prefrontal area in humans takes place after the postweaning periods included here.
Keywords: biological anthropology; comparative neuroanatomy; evolution; minicolumn.
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