Minicolumns are thought to be a fundamental neural unit in the neocortex and their replication may have formed the basis of the rapid cortical expansion that occurred during primate evolution. We sought evidence of minicolumns in the primary visual cortex (V-1) of three great apes, three rodents and representatives from three other mammalian orders: Eulipotyphla (European hedgehog), Artiodactyla (domestic pig) and Carnivora (ferret). Minicolumns, identified by the presence of a long bundle of radial, myelinated fibers stretching from layer III to the white matter of silver-stained sections, were found in the human, chimpanzee, gorilla and guinea pig V-1. Shorter bundles confined to one or two layers were found in the other species but represent modules rather than minicolumns. The inter-bundle distance, and hence density of minicolumns, varied systematically both within a local area that might represent a hypercolumn but also across the whole visual field. The distance between all bundles had a similar range for human, chimpanzee, gorilla, ferret and guinea pig: most bundles were 20–45 μm apart. By contrast, the space between bundles was greater for the hedgehog and pig (20–140 μm). The mean density of minicolumns was greater in tangential sections of the gorilla and chimpanzee (1,243–1,287 bundles/mm2) than in human (314–422 bundles/mm2) or guinea pig (643 bundles/mm2). The minicolumnar bundles did not form a hexagonal lattice but were arranged in thin curving and branched bands separated by thicker bands of neuropil/somata. Estimates of the total number of modules/minicolumns within V-1 were strongly correlated with visual acuity.
Wallace, M. N., Zobay, O., Hardman, E., Thompson, Z., Dobbs, P., Chakrabarti, L., & Palmer, A. R. (2022). The large numbers of minicolumns in the primary visual cortex of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas are related to high visual acuity. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 16, Article 1034264. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnana.2022.1034264