Microcolumns in the Cerebral Cortex

-Neuron Recog.

Measures of Microcolumnarity

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The following is an excerpt from:
  • L. Cruz, S. V. Buldyrev, S. Peng, D. L. Roe, B. Urbanc, H. E. Stanley, and D. L. Rosene, ``A Statistically Based Density Map Method for Identification and Quantification of Regional Differences in Microcolumnarity in the Monkey Brain,'' J. Neuroscience Methods, 141/2, p. 321-332 (2005). [PDF]


We present a statistical density map method derived from condensed matter physics to quantify microcolumns, the fundamental computational unit of the cerebral cortex. This method provides measures for microcolumnar strength, width, spacing, length, and periodicity. We applied this method to Nissl-stained 30 micron thick frozen sections from areas 46, TE, and TL of rhesus monkey brains, areas that differ visually in microcolumnarity and are associated with different cognitive functions. Our results indicate that microcolumns in these areas are similar in width, spacing, and periodicity, but are stronger (possess a higher neuronal density) in area TE, as compared to areas TL and 46. We modeled the effect of section orientation on microcolumnar spacing and demonstrated that this method provides an adequate estimate of spacing. We also modeled disruption of microcolumnarity by performing simulations that randomly displace neurons and demonstrated that displacements of only one neuronal diameter effectively eliminate microcolumnar organization. These results indicate that our density map method is sensitive enough to detect and quantify subtle differences in microcolumnar organization that may occur in the context of development, aging, and neuropathology, as well as between areas and species.

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