Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 190, Issue 4, pp 351–366 | Cite as

Changes in volume, surface estimate, three-dimensional shape and total number of neurons of the human primary visual cortex from midgestation until old age

  • G. Leuba
  • R. Kraftsik
Original articles


Macroscopic features such as volume, surface estimate, thickness and caudorostral length of the human primary visual cortex (Brodman's area 17) of 46 human brains between midgestation and 93 years were studied by means of camera lucida drawings from serial frontal sections. Individual values were best fitted by a logistic function from midgestation to adulthood and by a regression line between adulthood and old age. Allometric functions were calculated to study developmental relationships between all the features. The three-dimensional shape of area 17 was also reconstructed from the serial sections in 15 cases and correlated with the sequence of morphological events. The sulcal pattern of area 17 begins to develop around 21 weeks of gestation but remains rather simple until birth, while it becomes more convoluted, particularly in the caudal part, during the postnatal period. Until birth, a large increase in cortical thickness (about 83% of its mean adult value) and caudorostral length (69%) produces a moderate increase in cortical volume (31%) and surface estimate (40%) of area 17. After birth, the cortical volume and surface undergo their maximum growth rate, in spite of a rather small increase in cortical thickness and caudorostral length. This is due to the development of the pattern of gyrification within and around the calcarine fissure. All macroscopic features have reached the mean adult value by the end of the first postnatal year. With aging, the only features to undergo significant regression are the cortical surface estimate and the caudorostral length. The total number of neurons in area 17 shows great interindividual variability at all ages. No decrease in the postnatal period or in aging could be demonstrated.

Key words

Development Aging Visual cortex Volume Surface 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Leuba
    • 1
  • R. Kraftsik
    • 2
  1. 1.University Psychogeriatrics HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of AnatomyUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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