Cortical organization in shrews: Evidence from five species

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Abstract

Cortical organization was examined in five shrew species. In three species, Blarina brevicauda, Cryptotis parva, and Sorex palustris, microelectrode recordings were made in cortex to determine the organization of sensory areas. Cortical recordings were then related to flattened sections of cortex processed for cytochrome oxidase or myelin to reveal architectural borders. An additional two species (Sorex cinereus and Sorex longirostris) with visible cortical subdivisions based on histology alone were analyzed without electrophysiological mapping. A single basic plan of cortical organization was found in shrews, consisting of a few clearly defined sensory areas located caudally in cortex. Two somatosensory areas contained complete representations of the contralateral body, corresponding to primary somatosensory cortex (S1) and secondary somatosensory cortex (S2). A small primary visual cortex (V1) was located closely adjacent to S1, whereas auditory cortex (A1) was located in extreme caudolateral cortex, partially encircled by S2. Areas did not overlap and had sharp, histochemically apparent and electrophysiologically defined borders. The adjacency of these areas suggests a complete absence of intervening higher level or association areas. Based on a previous study of corticospinal connections, a presumptive primary motor cortex (M1) was identified directly rostral to S1. Apparently, in shrews, the solution to having extremely little neocortex is to have only a few small cortical subdivisions. However, the small areas remain discrete, well organized, and functional. This cortical organization in shrews is likely a derived condition, because a wide range of extant mammals have a greater number of cortical subdivisions. J. Comp. Neurol. 410:55–72, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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