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Abstract

The first appearance and early development of two circumventricular organs, the area postrema (AP) and the subfornical organ (SFO), were investigated in human embryos and fetuses from the 4th to the 40th gestational weeks (GW). The AP appears very early in development, during the GW 10; its high vascularization can be seen from GW14, and differentiated neurons are observed from GW 16. The SFO is characterized by a late onset of development. It can first be distinguished at GW 17, but it does not attain cytological differentiation until the last weeks of gestation. It is suggested that the AP has important functions during fetal life, which are related to normal fetal weight and growth; in contrast the SFO, which is connected with drinking behavior and salt/water balance, seems to play a less essential role in early fetal life.