Microcolumns in the Cerebral Cortex

A collaborative research by:
Drexel University,
Center for Polymer Studies,
Boston University Medical Campus


Microcolumns, also called minicolumns, are a prominent but little-studied anatomical feature of the cortex. They are a vertical arrangement of neurons seen in cell stains under low magnification as vertical stripes.

Example Tissue with Microcolumns

Micrograph of a Nissl-stained thin tissue section from a rhesus monkey brain at 10x.

These arrangements have been called micro- or minicolumns, are composed of about 100 neurons, and are about 30 microns in diameter. Neurons within a microcolumn receive common inputs, have common outputs, are interconnected, and may constitute a fundamental computational unit of the cerebral cortex. The microcolumn has been shown to be disrupted under many different conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, autism, dyslexia, schizophrenia, and in normal aging. For a more in-depth discussion, please go here.

In a collaborative research involving physicists from Drexel University and the Center for Polymer Studies, and neuroscientists from the Boston University Medical Campus investigators are studying the spatial organization of neurons obtained from thin-sliced brain tissue sections of rhesus monkey brains with the goal of determining the nature of this organizations as well as to study the connection between loss of this organization and cognitive declines seen in normal aging.

We invite you to explore the links on the left for a more thorough presentation of the topics, their relevance to aging, and new methods to characterize and quantify microcolumns.

Contact Luis Cruz with questions or comments regarding this page.