The cerebral cortex is divisible into a number of cytoarchitectonic areas, but developmental mechanisms that regulate their number and size remain unknown. Here we provide evidence that reducing the population of selected thalamic fibers projecting into the primary visual cortex (area 17) of monkeys during midgestation induces the formation of a novel cytoarchitectonic area situated along the border of and embedded within area 17. This region, termed area X, differs cytoarchitectonically from both area 17 and the adjacent secondary visual cortex (area 18). We propose that an aberrant combination of thalamic and cortical connections acting on a portion of prospective area 17 deprived of its normal thalamic input may result in formation of a hybrid cortex. Our results support the protomap hypothesis of cortical parcellation and suggest how during evolution new cytoarchitectonic regions may arise by cell-cell interactions that depend on a unique combination of intrinsic properties of cortical neurons and afferent fibers.
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