Neurobiology of the Von Economo Neurons and related circuits

  • Allman, John M. J.M. (PI)
  • Wold, Barbara J. B.J. (CoPI)
  • Craig, Arthur D. A.D. (CoPI)
  • Hof, Patrick (CoPI)
  • Manaye, Kebreten F. K.F. (CoPI)
  • Seeley, William W. W.W. (CoPI)
  • Sherwood, Chet C. C.C. (CoPI)

Project Details


Von Economo Neurons (VENs) were first described in 1925, and 'rediscovered' during neuroanatomical studies conducted in the late 1990's. VENs are of particular interest to neuroanatomists because the available data indicated that these cells were found only in the brains of humans and great apes and occurred more abundantly in the human than in the great ape brain. VENs also show a protracted developmental time course and do not achieve adult numbers in humans until age 4 years. The renewed interest in the specialized characteristics of VENs was fueled in part by speculation that these cells are integral to the evolution and development of complex cognitive functions, possibly related to social interactions. Support for such speculation was bolstered by the autopsy evidence suggesting that VEN abnormalities occur in individuals with diseases such as Autism and dementia. Although it is still far from certain how these unusual, spindle-shaped neurons contribute to behavior, their unusual morphology and integration into neural circuits known to influence complex cognitive functions, warrant careful study.
Effective start/end date1/01/0931/12/12


  • James S. McDonnell Foundation


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