Organization of the orthogon - main and minor nerve cords

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The central nervous system of flatworms has been regarded as comprised of the bilobed brain, the longitudinal cords and the connecting transverse commissures forming a so called orthogon. The peripheral nervous system comprises the submuscular and subepidermal plexuses. As a confusion in the terminology of the longitudinal nerve cords has prevailed, two concepts have been introduced, the main nerve cords (MCs) and the minor cords. The MCs have been defined as the pair of longitudinal nerve cords that (1) start with strongest roots in the brain, (2) consist of wide fibre bundles and (3) are associated with more neurons (particularly amninergic marker neurons) than the other cords. Longitudinal nerve cords in other positions are thinner and have less pronounced contact with the brain. They have collectively been named minor cords. Support for the special status of the MCs has been obtained from studies of the neuroanatomy of Catenulida, Macrostomida, Proseriata, Tricladida and Lecithoepitheliata and of parasitic flatworms. Using the above mentioned criteria for the MCs and the results of recent studies, we present the following hypothese: The MCs in all flatworms correspond to each other and have a common origin.

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