Cortex, cognition and the cell: New insights into the pyramidal neuron and prefrontal function

Elston, Guy N. (2003) Cortex, cognition and the cell: New insights into the pyramidal neuron and prefrontal function. Cerebral Cortex, 13 11: 1124-1138. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhg093

Author Elston, Guy N.
Title Cortex, cognition and the cell: New insights into the pyramidal neuron and prefrontal function
Journal name Cerebral Cortex   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1047-3211
Publication date 2003-01-01
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhg093
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 13
Issue 11
Start page 1124
End page 1138
Total pages 15
Editor P. Rahic
Place of publication Cary
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Subject C1
270502 Neurobiology
780106 Political science and public policy
Abstract Arguably the most complex conical functions are seated in human cognition, the how and why of which have been debated for centuries by theologians, philosophers and scientists alike. In his best-selling book, An Astonishing Hypothesis: A Scientific Search for the Soul, Francis Crick refined the view that these qualities are determined solely by cortical cells and circuitry. Put simply, cognition is nothing more, or less, than a biological function. Accepting this to be the case, it should be possible to identify the mechanisms that subserve cognitive processing. Since the pioneering studies of Lorent de No and Hebb, and the more recent studies of Fuster, Miller and Goldman-Rakic, to mention but a few, much attention has been focused on the role of persistent neural activity in cognitive processes. Application of modern technologies and modelling techniques has led to new hypotheses about the mechanisms of persistent activity. Here I focus on how regional variations in the pyramidal cell phenotype may determine the complexity of cortical circuitry and, in turn, influence neural activity. Data obtained from thousands of individually injected pyramidal cells in sensory, motor, association and executive cortex reveal marked differences in the numbers of putative excitatory inputs received by these cells. Pyramidal cells in prefrontal cortex have, on average, up to 23 times more dendritic spines than those in the primary visual area. I propose that without these specializations in the structure of pyramidal cells, and the circuits they form, human cognitive processing would not have evolved to its present state. I also present data from both New World and Old World monkeys that show varying degrees of complexity in the pyramidal cell phenotype in their prefrontal cortices, suggesting that cortical circuitry and, thus, cognitive styles are evolving independently in different species.
Keyword Neurosciences
Calcium-binding Proteins
Primate Visual-cortex
Calretinin-immunoreactive Neurons
Posterior Parietal Cortex
Classical Receptive-field
Inferior Temporal Cortex
Monkey Aotus-trivirgatus
Retinal Ganglion-cells
Spatial Working-memory
Somatic Sensory Cortex
Q-Index Code C1
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
2004 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 187 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 207 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 11:47:55 EST