Brain sizes, surfaces, and neuronal sizes of the cortex cerebri: a stereological investigation of man and his variability and a comparison with some mammals (primates, whales, marsupials, insectivores, and one elephant)

Am J Anat. 1987 Oct;180(2):126-42. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001800203.


This study deals with the stereological estimation of macroscopic sizes of brain and cortex, i.e., volume, surface, and folding, and of microscopic neuronal sizes, i.e., density, mean size, size distribution, and number of neurons. The results show that the degree of variability in man amounts to about 15%. A decrease in volume of the different gray structures can be observed in man after the age of 65 years. The surface, folding index, and length of convolution do not alter with aging. The comparison with mammals of various sizes allows the conclusion that there is a high correlation to brain size for nearly all macroscopic values. Man and elephant, however, have a cortical surface which is, in comparison with whales, relatively small. In contrast, whales have very small cortices compared with man. At the cytoarchitectonic level, the neuronal density has a correlation to brain size. Contrary to other mammals, the primates and man have a high fraction of small granular neurons, especially in layer 4. The assumption that the number of cortical neurons beneath a given surface area of cortex is the same in all mammals cannot be verified, especially in those with large brains. The allometric connection between brain size and parameters is not valid for all measurements (e.g., thickness of cortex, mean size of neurons, perikaryal size distribution, and glial density). Yet some other measurements are well correlated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Elephants / anatomy & histology
  • Eulipotyphla / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Marsupialia / anatomy & histology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Primates / anatomy & histology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Whales / anatomy & histology