A tension-based theory of morphogenesis and compact wiring in the central nervous system

Nature. 1997 Jan 23;385(6614):313-8. doi: 10.1038/385313a0.


Many structural features of the mammalian central nervous system can be explained by a morphogenetic mechanism that involves mechanical tension along axons, dendrites and glial processes. In the cerebral cortex, for example, tension along axons in the white matter can explain how and why the cortex folds in a characteristic species-specific pattern. In the cerebellum, tension along parallel fibres can explain why the cortex is highly elongated but folded like an accordion. By keeping the aggregate length of axonal and dendritic wiring low, tension should contribute to the compactness of neural circuitry throughout the adult brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Central Nervous System / embryology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Macaca
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways
  • Tensile Strength