Quantitative comparison of the hominoid thalamus. I. Specific sensory relay nuclei.
Studies to date have indicated few differences in sensory perception among hominoids. Sensory relay nuclei in the dorsal thalamus--portions of the medial and lateral geniculate bodies (MGBp, LGBd) and the ventrobasal complex (VB)--in two gibbons, one gorilla, one chimpanzee and three humans were examined for anatomical similarity by measuring and estimating the nuclear volumes, neuronal densities, numbers of neurons per nucleus, and volumes of neuronal perikarya. The absolute volumes of these nuclei were larger in the larger brains; however, with the volume of the dorsal thalamus as a standard, these sensory relay nuclei showed negative allometry. The gibbons had about half as many neurons as did the other hominoids. Although the human VB had slightly more neurons, the numbers of neurons in LGBd and MGBp did not significantly differ between the great apes and humans. The volumetric distribution of the neuronal perikarya were similar among these hominoids. Other thalamic nuclei had much more diverse numbers of neurons and relative frequencies of their neuronal perikarya. The sensory relay nuclei appear to be a group of conservative nuclei in the forebrain. These results suggest that as a neurological base for complex behaviors evolved in hominids, not all parts of the brain changed equally.