Three counting methods agree on cell and neuron number in chimpanzee primary visual cortex

Daniel J. Miller, Pooja Balaram, Nicole A. Young, Jon H. Kaas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Determining the cellular composition of specific brain regions is crucial to our understanding of the function of neurobiological systems. It is therefore useful to identify the extent to which different methods agree when estimating the same properties of brain circuitry. In this study, we estimated the number of neuronal and non-neuronal cells in the primary visual cortex (area 17 or V1) of both hemispheres from a single chimpanzee. Specifically, we processed samples distributed across V1 of the right hemisphere after cortex was flattened into a sheet using two variations of the isotropic fractionator cell and neuron counting method. We processed the left hemisphere as serial brain slices for stereological investigation. The goal of this study was to evaluate the agreement between these methods in the most direct manner possible by comparing estimates of cell density across one brain region of interest in a single individual. In our hands, these methods produced similar estimates of the total cellular population (approximately 1 billion) as well as the number of neurons (approximately 675 million) in chimpanzee V1, providing evidence that both techniques estimate the same parameters of interest. In addition, our results indicate the strengths of each distinct tissue preparation procedure, highlighting the importance of attention to anatomical detail. In summary, we found that the isotropic fractionator and the stereological optical fractionator produced concordant estimates of the cellular composition of V1, and that this result supports the conclusion that chimpanzees conform to the primate pattern of exceptionally high packing density in V1. Ultimately, our data suggest that investigators can optimize their experimental approach by using any of these counting methods to obtain reliable cell and neuron counts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 16 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell density
  • Flow cytometry
  • Isotropic fractionator
  • Neuron number
  • Stereology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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