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Keywords:

  • rodents;
  • cortical areas;
  • visual cortex;
  • motor cortex;
  • somatosensory cortex;
  • auditory cortex;
  • cingulate cortex;
  • retrosplenial cortex

Abstract

Squirrels are highly visual mammals with an expanded cortical visual system and a number of well-differentiated architectonic fields. To describe and delimit cortical fields, subdivisions of cortex were reconstructed from serial brain sections cut in the coronal, sagittal, or horizontal planes. Architectonic characteristics of cortical areas were visualized after brain sections were processed with immunohistochemical and histochemical procedures for revealing parvalbumin, calbindin, neurofilament protein, vesicle glutamate transporter 2, limbic-associated membrane protein, synaptic zinc, cytochrome oxidase, myelin or Nissl substance. In general, these different procedures revealed similar boundaries between areas, suggesting that functionally relevant borders were being detected. The results allowed a more precise demarcation of previously identified areas as well as the identification of areas that had not been previously described. Primary sensory cortical areas were characterized by sparse zinc staining of layer 4, as thalamocortical terminations lack zinc, as well as by layer 4 terminations rich in parvalbumin and vesicle glutamate transporter 2. Primary areas also expressed higher levels of cytochrome oxidase and myelin. Primary motor cortex was associated with large SMI-32 labeled pyramidal cells in layers 3 and 5. Our proposed organization of cortex in gray squirrels includes both similarities and differences to the proposed of cortex in other rodents such as mice and rats. The presence of a number of well-differentiated cortical areas in squirrels may serve as a guide to the identification of homologous fields in other rodents, as well as a useful guide in further studies of cortical organization and function. Anat Rec, 291:1301–1333, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.