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Keywords:

  • brain collections;
  • comparative neuroanatomy;
  • neuroimaging;
  • brain mapping;
  • cytoarchitectonics

In the context of increasing extinction rates and the potential loss of essential evolutionary biological and anthropological information, it is an important task to support efforts to prepare, preserve, and curate collections of histological brain sections; to disseminate information on such collections in the neuroscience community; and to make the collections publicly available. This review emphasizes the importance of complete, serially sectioned human brains of different ontogenetic stages as well as those of adult and old human individuals for neurobiological and medical research. Such histological sections enable microstructural analyses and anatomical evaluations of functional and structural neuroimaging data, for example, based on magnetic resonance imaging. Here, this review provides the first detailed and updated account of the content of the Stephan, Zilles, and Zilles-Amunts collections, which consist of serially sectioned and cell body- and myelin-stained histological preparations. Finally, this reivew will give an overview of past and recent research using these collections to increase our understanding of the detailed patterns of divergent brain evolution in primates as well as of the structural organization of the human brain.