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Open Access Research article

Parallel organization of contralateral and ipsilateral prefrontal cortical projections in the rhesus monkey

Helen Barbas1*, Claus C Hilgetag12, Subhash Saha1, Caterina R Dermon3 and Joanna L Suski1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

2 InternationalUniversity of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

3 University of Crete, Iraklion, Crete, Greece

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BMC Neuroscience 2005, 6:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-6-32

Published: 3 May 2005

Abstract

Background

The neocortical commissures have a fundamental role in functional integration across the cerebral hemispheres. We investigated whether commissural projections in prefrontal cortices are organized according to the same or different rules as those within the same hemisphere, by quantitatively comparing density, topography, and laminar origin of contralateral and ipsilateral projections, labeled after unilateral injection of retrograde tracers in prefrontal areas.

Results

Commissural projection neurons constituted less than one third of the ipsilateral. Nevertheless, projections from the two hemispheres were strongly correlated in topography and relative density. We investigated to what extent the distribution of contralateral projections depended on: (a) geographic proximity of projection areas to the area homotopic to the injection site; (b) the structural type of the linked areas, based on the number and neuronal density of their layers. Although both measures were good predictors, structural type was a comparatively stronger determinant of the relative distribution and density of projections. Ipsilateral projection neurons were distributed in the superficial (II-III) and deep (V-VI) layers, in proportions that varied across areas. In contrast, contralateral projection neurons were found mostly in the superficial layers, but still showed a gradient in their distribution within cortical layers that correlated significantly with cortical type, but not with geographic proximity to the homotopic area.

Conclusion

The organization of ipsilateral and contralateral prefrontal projections is similar in topography and relative density, differing only by higher overall density and more widespread laminar origin of ipsilateral than contralateral projections. The projections on both sides are highly correlated with the structural architecture of the linked areas, and their remarkable organization is likely established by punctuated development of distinct cortical types. The preponderance of contralateral projections from layer III may be traced to the late development of the callosal system, whose function may be compromised in diseases that have their root late in ontogeny.