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Keywords:

  • architecture;
  • area 17;
  • area 18;
  • evolution;
  • extrastriate cortex;
  • vision

Abstract

In this study we examine and describe the neuroanatomical organization of sensory cortex in four rodents: laboratory Norway rats (Long Evans; Rattus norvegicus), wild-caught Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), wild-caught California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi), and wild-caught Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). Specifically, we examined the myeloarchitecture and cytochrome oxidase reactivity for several well-identified areas in visual cortex (areas 17, 18, and 19), somatosensory cortex (areas S1, S2 and PV), and auditory cortex [areas A1 + AAF (R) and TA] and compared the percentage of dorsolateral cortex devoted to each of these areas. Our results demonstrate that squirrels have a larger mean percentage of dorsolateral cortex devoted to visual areas than rats. The difference is due to the greater percentage of cortex devoted to known areas such as area 17 and area 18 and not simply to a difference in the number of visual areas, which ultimately makes this distinction even more pronounced. Furthermore, both rat groups have a larger percentage of the dorsolateral cortex devoted to somatosensory and auditory cortical areas. Differences within groups were also observed. The arboreal squirrel had a larger mean percentage of dorsolateral cortex devoted to areas 17 and 18 compared with the terrestrial squirrel. The laboratory Norway rat had a larger percentage of dorsolateral cortex devoted to both somatosensory and auditory areas than the wild-caught Norway rat. Our results indicate that differences in sensory apparatus, use of sensory systems, and niche are reflected in the organization and size of cortical areas. J. Comp. Neurol. 518:4491–4512, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.