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The von Economo neurons in the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortex

Allman, John M. and Tetreault, Nicole A. and Hakeem, Atiya Y. and Manaye, Kebreten F. and Semendeferi, Katerina and Erwin, Joseph M. and Park, Soyoung and Goubert, Virginie and Hof, Patrick R. (2011) The von Economo neurons in the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortex. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1225 (1). pp. 59-71. ISSN 0077-8923. PMCID PMC3140770. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06011.x.

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The von Economo neurons (VENs) are large bipolar neurons located in the frontoinsular cortex (FI) and limbic anterior (LA) area in great apes and humans but not in other primates. Our stereological counts of VENs in FI and LA show them to be more numerous in humans than in apes. In humans, small numbers of VENs appear the 36th week postconception, with numbers increasing during the first 8 months after birth. There are significantly more VENs in the right hemisphere in postnatal brains; this may be related to asymmetries in the autonomic nervous system. VENs are also present in elephants and whales and may be a specialization related to very large brain size. The large size and simple dendritic structure of these projection neurons suggest that they rapidly send basic information from FI and LA to other parts of the brain, while slower neighboring pyramids send more detailed information. Selective destruction of VENs in early stages of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) implies that they are involved in empathy, social awareness, and self‐control, consistent with evidence from functional imaging.

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Alternate Title:The von Economo neurons in the fronto-insular and anterior cingulate cortex
Additional Information:© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences. Issue Online: 28 April 2011; Version of Record online: 28 April 2011. The authors would like to thank Drs. Barbara Wold, Chet Sherwood, Bill Seeley, and A. D. Craig for their invaluable comments and discussion. We thank Drs. Micheal Tyszka and Jason Kaufman for the MRI imaging of the ape brains. We thank Drs. Kristen Tillisch and Emeran Mayer for the MR images of the young adult human subject. We thank Dr. Heidi Griffith for her help in collecting some of the human stereological data. We also thank Archibald Fobbs, curator of the Yakovlev and Welker Brain Collections, and Dr. Adrianne Noe, Director of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, for their crucial role in preserving these collections and making them available to us and to the broader scientific community. In the Hof lab, technical help was provided by B. Wicinski and S. Harry. Several of the great ape brains involved in this study were on loan to the "Great Ape Aging Project" from zoological gardens that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and that participate in the Ape Taxon Advisory Group (Ape‐TAG). We especially appreciate the contribution of zoo veterinarians and staff in collecting and providing specimens. Additional human tissue was obtained from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Brain and Tissue Bank for Developmental Disorders. Some comparative specimens were collected under the “Comparative Neurobiology of Aging Resource,” NIH/NIA grant AG14308, J. Erwin, PI. This research was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Simons Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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James S. McDonnell FoundationUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:frontotemporal dementia; autism; schizophrenia; empathy; disgust; self-awareness; hemispheric specialization
Issue or Number:1
PubMed Central ID:PMC3140770
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200609-140544082
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Official Citation:Allman, J.M., Tetreault, N.A., Hakeem, A.Y., Manaye, K.F., Semendeferi, K., Erwin, J.M., Park, S., Goubert, V. and Hof, P.R. (2011), The von Economo neurons in the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortex. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1225: 59-71. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06011.x
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103802
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jun 2020 21:19
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:25

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