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Scaling of neuron number and volume of the pulvinar complex in new world primates: Comparisons with humans, other primates, and mammals



The lateral posterior nucleus and pulvinar (LP-pulvinar complex) are the principal thalamic nuclei associated with the elaborate development of the dorsal and ventral streams of the parietal cortex in primates. In humans, a novel site of origin for a subpopulation of pulvinar neurons has been observed, the ganglionic eminence of the telencephalon. This additional site of neuron origin has been proposed to contribute to the pulvinar's evolutionary expansion (Letinic and Rakic [ 2001] Nat Neurosci 4:930–936). Studies of neuron number in the LP-pulvinar complex in gibbon, chimpanzee, and gorilla compared to humans, however, did not show that the human LP-pulvinar was unexpectedly large (Armstrong [ 1981] Am J Phys Anthropol 55:369–383). Here we enlarge the allometric basis for comparison by determining neuron number in the LP-pulvinar complex of six New World primates (Cebus apella, Saimiri ustius, Saguinus midas niger, Alouatta caraya, Aotus azarae, and Callicebus moloch) as well as measuring LP-pulvinar volume in a further set of 24 species including additional primates, carnivores, and rodents. The volume of the LP-pulvinar complex scaled with positive allometry with respect to brain volume across all species examined. The scaling of the number of neurons in the LP-pulvinar complex was extremely similar in New World primates and anthropoid apes, with the human LP-pulvinar value close to the regression line. Comparison of the relative volumes of the LP-pulvinar in the larger sample confirmed this observation, and further demonstrated that both primates and carnivores showed a “grade shift” in its size compared to rodents, with the pulvinar comprising a greater proportion of total brain volume across the board. Diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular niche did not discriminate LP-pulvinar size across taxa. J. Comp. Neurol. 504:265–274, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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