The developmental status of some potential components of hippocampal circuitry was studied at the time of the emergence of the hippocampal cytoarchitectonic subfields. The laminar distribution of synapses as seen with electron microscopy was correlated with Golgi architectonics in 15- and 16.5-week-old human fetuses. A systematic electron microscopic analysis of the distribution of synapses demonstrated that they were restricted to the two zones bordering the cortical plate, viz. the marginal and subplate zones, which contain dendritic branches of pyramidal and large polymorphous non-pyramidal neurons. The density of synapses (number per unit area) was higher in the marginal zone than in the subplate zone. Most synapses were of the asymmetric axodendritic type, although some were symmetric axodendritic synapses. The possible origins of the axons forming these synapses are discussed. This study demonstrates that the human hippocampus shows an early onset of synapse formation, with a characteristic distribution of synapses in restricted laminae. The finding of early synapse formation is consistent with observations made in other cortical areas during development. The prevalence of synaptogenesis at a superficial level of the cortex seems, however, to be specific to the "archicortex".
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