, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 413-430

Neocortical layers I and II of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

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Summary

The intrinsic organization and interlaminar connections in neocortical layers I and II have been studied in adult hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) using the Golgi method. Layer I contains a dense plexus of horizontal fibers, the terminal dendritic bouquets of pyramidal cells of layer II and of underlying layers, and varieties of intrinsic neurons. Four main types of cells were found in layer I. Small horizontal cells represent most probably persisting foetal horizontal cells described for other mammals. Large horizontal cells, tufted cells, and spinous horizontal cells were also found in this layer.

Layer II contains primitive pyramidal cells representing the most outstanding feature of the neocortex of the hedgehog. Most pyramidal cells in layer II have two, three or more apical dendrites, richly covered by spines predominating over the basal dendrites. These cells resemble pyramidal cells found in the piriform cortex, hippocampus and other olfactory areas. It is suggested that the presence of these neurons reflects the retention of a primitive character in neocortical evolution.

Cells with intrinsic axons were found among pyramidal cells in layer II. These have smooth dendrites penetrating layer I and local axons forming extremely complex terminal arborizations around the bodies and proximal dendritic portions of pyramidal cells. They most probably effect numerous axo-somatic contacts resembling basket cells. The similarity of some axonal terminals with the chandelier type of axonal arborization is discussed. Other varieties of cells located in deep cortical layers and having ascending axons for layers I and II were also studied. It is concluded that the two first neocortical layers represent a level of important integration in this primitive mammal.