Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Primary Neocortical Areas in Selected Mammals

Elisabeth Van Kann, Bruno Cozzi, Patrick R. Hof, Helmut H.A. Oelschläger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The present study focuses on the relationship between neocortical structures and functional aspects in three selected mammalian species. Our aim was to compare cortical layering and neuron density in the projection areas (somatomotor, M1; somatosensory, S1; auditory, A1; and visual, V1; each in a wider sense). Morphological and design-based stereological analysis was performed in the wild boar (Sus scrofa scrofa) as a representative terrestrial hoofed animal (artiodactyl) and the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) as a highly derived related aquatic mammal (cetartiodactyl). For comparison, we included the human (Homo sapiens) as a well-documented anthropoid primate. In the cortex of many mammals, layer IV (inner granular layer) is the main target of specific thalamocortical inputs while layers III and V are the main origins of neocortical projections. Because the fourth layer is indistinct or mostly lacking in the primary neocortex of the wild boar and dolphins, respectively, we analyzed the adjacent layers III and V in these animals. In the human, all the three layers were investigated separately. The stereological data show comparatively low neuron densities in all areas of the wild boar and high cell counts in the human (as expected), particularly in the primary visual cortex. The common dolphin, in general, holds an intermediate position in terms of neuron density but exhibits higher values than the human in a few layers. With respect to the situation in the wild boar, stereological neuron counts in the dolphin are consistently higher, with a maximum in layer III of the visual cortex. The extended auditory neocortical field in dolphins and the hypertrophic auditory pathway indicate secondary neurobiological adaptations to their aquatic habitat during evolution. The wild boar, however, an omnivorous quadruped terrestrial mammal, shows striking specializations as to the sensorimotor neurobiology of the snout region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-210
Number of pages18
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Brain
  • Cetartiodactyla
  • Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
  • Ecology
  • Evolution
  • Human (Homo sapiens)
  • Neocortex
  • Potential primary projection areas
  • Stereology
  • Wild boar (Sus scrofa)


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