By Prof. Dr. Valentino Braitenberg, Priv. Doz. Dr. Almut Schüz (auth.)

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Extra info for Anatomy of the Cortex: Statistics and Geometry

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For the purposes of our counts a synapse was defined pragmatically, without regard to the problems of interpretation which arise when the cytological details are related to their function. Lffi. Synapses were counted irrespective of their orientation in the section, including 32 Chapter 5 the ones cut tangentially, provided the above-mentioned conditions were met. Thickenings of two pieces of cell membrane in close apposition without the presence of vesicles were occasionally observed and recorded, but not included in the counts.

The staining of axons is fairly complete, while the staining of dendrites and neural cell bodies is suppressed, except for some lumps inside the nuclei. The density of axons on such preparations is higher than I km / mm3. Note that the enlargement is the same as in Fig. 17. (Braitenberg 1981) Density of Axons 45 tissue in glucose solution before sectioning and staining. Fixation in a mixture of glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde administered by perfusion (the optimal fixation developed by electron microscopists) was certainly another reason for the drastic improvement upon the original Bielschowsky preparations.

An alternative explanation for the high density of axons in the cortex is that much of this axonal population is of external origin, being derived from axons reaching the cortex from other regions of the nervous system. If this were so, the lower value for the axonal density which we obtain by multiplying the number of cortical neurons by the length of their axons in Golgi preparations would not be surprising. It would actually make it possible to estimate the proportion of axons of extra and intracortical origin, a value which is difficult to obtain by other means.

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