Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 192, Issue 6, pp 557–571 | Cite as

Postnatal development of the human primary motor cortex: a quantitative cytoarchitectonic analysis

  • Katrin Amunts
  • Vadim Istomin
  • Axel Schleicher
  • Karl Zilles
Original Article


The postnatal development of the human primary motor cortex (area 4) was analyzed in 54 individuals ranging in age from birth to 90 years. Three parameters defining major cytoarchitectonic features (areal fraction, numerical density and mean area of cells) were measured in vertical columns extending from the pial surface to the border between cortex and underlying white matter. The data were compiled in profile curves that reveal a more detailed laminar pattern than the classical cytoarchitectonic descriptions. The most pronounced decreases in numerical density and areal fraction of Nissl-stained cell profiles during early postnatal ontogeny are observed in layer II. A clearly delineable layer IV, which is still recognizable in the newborn, disappears gradually during the first postnatal months. Although the width of the cortex as a whole increases during this period, layer V, the main source of pyramidal tract fibers, is the only lamina that also increases in relative thickness. The other layers remain stable or become relatively thinner. These results reveal specific laminar growth processes in area 4, which take place in parallel with the functional maturation of the cortical motor system.

Key words

Human brain Ontogeny Motor cortex Cytoarchitecture Morphometry 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrin Amunts
    • 1
  • Vadim Istomin
    • 2
  • Axel Schleicher
    • 1
  • Karl Zilles
    • 1
  1. 1.C. & O. Vogt Brain Research Institute, Heinrich Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryMount Sinai HospitalNew YorkUSA

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