Acta Stereologica



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Bente Pakkenberg & Hans Jørgen G. Gundersen

Total number of neurons in specific cortical layers in the human brain

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The neurons in the human neocortex are organized in layers which are distinguished on the basis of variations in cell density, size, shape, and orientation. The human neocortex is conventionally divided into six layers. Both the number of neurons and the thickness of the different layers vary a great deal, and are also a function of which region they belong to. In order to estimate the total neuron population in each layer we have applied two different sampling designs in which we have tried to overcome the problems involved in such an estimate. In one design, a "uniform" sample of neocortex is initially taken, the other, the "arbitrary" design, is close to commonly designs for studying the cortical layering. Neither method will provide an unbiased result but an approximation to the true total neuron number in each layer. The conclusion is that both methods have the same efficiency, and that the "uniform" method therefore is preferred in most cases, since the sampling can be performed without further handling of the brain.

Keywords : brain cortex, Cavalieri, cortical layers, neurons, optical disector

To cite this article

Bente Pakkenberg & Hans Jørgen G. Gundersen, «Total number of neurons in specific cortical layers in the human brain», Acta Stereologica [En ligne], Volume 12 (1993), Number 2 - Proceedings of the sixth European congress for stereology - Part one - Dec. 1993, 271-276 URL :

About: Bente Pakkenberg

Neurological Research Laboratory, Bartholin Instituttet, Copenhagen

About: Hans Jørgen G. Gundersen

Stereological Research Laboratory, Aarhus University, Denmark