Hypothesis

A tension-based theory of morphogenesis and compact wiring in the central nervous system

Published online:

Many structural features of the mammalian central nervous system can be explained by a morphogenetic mechanism that involves mechanical tension along axons, dendrites and glial processes. In the cerebral cortex, for example, tension along axons in the white matter can explain how and why the cortex folds in a characteristic species-specific pattern. In the cerebellum, tension along parallel fibres can explain why the cortex is highly elongated but folded like an accordion. By keeping the aggregate length of axonal and dendritic wiring low, tension should contribute to the compactness of neural circuitry throughout the adult brain.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA

    • David C. Van Essen

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