A neuronal morphologic type unique to humans and great apes.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Nimchinsky, E A; Gilissen, E; Allman, J M; Perl, D P; Erwin, J M; Hof, P R
Year of Publication: 1999
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Volume: 96
Issue: 9
Pagination: 5268-73
Date Published: 1999 Apr 27
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 0027-8424
Keywords: Alzheimer Disease, Animals, Biological Evolution, Cell Differentiation, Hominidae, Humans, Neocortex, Neurons

We report the existence and distribution of an unusual type of projection neuron, a large, spindle-shaped cell, in layer Vb of the anterior cingulate cortex of pongids and hominids. These spindle cells were not observed in any other primate species or any other mammalian taxa, and their volume was correlated with brain volume residuals, a measure of encephalization in higher primates. These observations are of particular interest when considering primate neocortical evolution, as they reveal possible adaptive changes and functional modifications over the last 15-20 million years in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region that plays a major role in the regulation of many aspects of autonomic function and of certain cognitive processes. That in humans these unique neurons have been shown previously to be severely affected in the degenerative process of Alzheimer's disease suggests that some of the differential neuronal susceptibility that occurs in the human brain in the course of age-related dementing illnesses may have appeared only recently during primate evolution.

Alternate Journal: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.