Feature Finding Title
Featured Finding Figure

Individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate impairments of sensory processing within primary auditory cortex. We have previously identified lower densities of dendritic spines and axon boutons, and smaller mean pyramidal neuron somal volume, in layer 3 of the primary auditory cortex in subjects with schizophrenia, all of which might reflect fewer layer 3 pyramidal neurons in schizophrenia. To examine this hypothesis, we developed a robust stereological method based upon unbiased principles for estimation of total volume and pyramidal neuron numbers for each layer of a cortical area. Our method generates both a systematic, uniformly random set of mapping sections as well as a set of randomly rotated sections cut orthogonal to the pial surface, within the region of interest (Figure). We applied our approach in twelve subjects with schizophrenia, each matched to a normal comparison subject. Primary auditory cortex volume was assessed using Cavalieri’s method. The relative and absolute volume of each cortical layer and, within layer 3, the number and density of pyramidal neurons was estimated using our novel approach. Subject groups did not differ in regional volume, layer volumes, or pyramidal neuron number, although pyramidal neuron density was significantly greater in subjects with schizophrenia. These findings suggest that previously observed lower densities of dendritic spines and axon boutons reflect fewer numbers per neuron, and contribute to greater neuronal density via a reduced neuropil. Our approach represents a powerful new method for stereologic estimation of features of interest within individual layers of cerebral cortex, with applications beyond the current study.

Dorph-Petersen K-A, Delevich KM, Marcsisin MJ, Zhang W, Sampson AR, Gundersen HJG, Lewis DA, Sweet RA: Pyramidal neuron number in layer 3 of primary auditory cortex of subjects with schizophrenia. Brain Res 1285: 42-57, 2009.

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David A. Lewis, M.D. | Department of Psychiatry | University of Pittsburgh
3811 O'Hara Street, Biomedical Science Tower W1654
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