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Keywords:

  • cognition;
  • cortex;
  • dendrite;
  • human;
  • Lucifer yellow;
  • macaque;
  • marmoset;
  • primate;
  • spine

Abstract

Recent studies have revealed marked regional variation in pyramidal cell morphology in primate cortex. In particular, pyramidal cells in human and macaque prefrontal cortex (PFC) are considerably more spinous than those in other cortical regions. PFC pyramidal cells in the New World marmoset monkey, however, are less spinous than those in man and macaques. Taken together, these data suggest that the pyramidal cell has become more branched and more spinous during the evolution of PFC in only some primate lineages. This specialization may be of fundamental importance in determining the cognitive styles of the different species. However, these data are preliminary, with only one New World and two Old World species having been studied. Moreover, the marmoset data were obtained from different cases. In the present study we investigated PFC pyramidal cells in another New World monkey, the owl monkey, to extend the basis for comparison. As in the New World marmoset monkey, prefrontal pyramidal cells in owl monkeys have relatively few spines. These species differences appear to reflect variation in the extent to which PFC circuitry has become specialized during evolution. Highly complex pyramidal cells in PFC appear not to have been a feature of a common prosimian ancestor, but have evolved with the dramatic expansion of PFC in some anthropoid lineages.