Numerous small and medium-sized neuronal perikarya in layers III and IV of the visual cortex display an unusual pattern of ribosomal distribution. Instead of being aggregated in clusters, spirals, rows, and other regular polysomal configurations, the ribosomes, whether free or attached to the endoplasmic reticulum, are randomly dispersed, with no discernible pattern. The endoplasmic reticulum in such cells is reduced to a few (perhaps only one) meandering, broad cisternae, which delimit broad fields of cytoplasmic matrix occupied almost solely by scattered, single ribosomes. The Golgi apparatus is elaborate. Mitochondria are either small and numerous or large and infrequent. The other organelles, including the nucleus and nucleolus, are not remarkable. Axonal terminals synapse in the normal fashion on the surfaces of these cells and their dendrites. Associated with these cells are more numerous intermediate cells in which a few to many polysomal clusters can be found. It is proposed that the neurons with dispersed, single ribosomes are inactive in protein synthesis and that the suspension of such an important metabolic activity is probably temporary. Thus, these cells are considered to be part of a population undergoing cyclic fluctuations in the intensity of protein synthesis that should be correlated with their specific neural behavior.

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