The peripheral nervous system of vertebrate animals arises primarily from the interaction of cranial neural crest and sensory placodes. Placodes are described as thickenings of ectoderm that arise through cell division during neural tube formation. The olfactory sensory system is one component of the peripheral nervous system that arises from paired sensory placodes during development. The olfactory placodes give rise to the primary sensory neurons, support cells and basal cells of the olfactory epithelium. Recent evidence from work in zebrafish and chick suggests that the olfactory and auditory placodes arise from large fields of cells that converge to form the sensory placode. The olfactory placodes arise from within the neural plate, and cell division is apparent only after the sensory placodes are morphologically distinct. As the olfactory placode is forming, its precursors must segregate from their neighboring fields which will give rise to the adenohypophyseal placode, cranial neural crest, and telencephalon. Analysis has shown that the endocrine cells thought to arise from the olfactory placode originate in the neighboring adenohypophyseal and cranial neural crest domains. The borders separating the domains are plastic, where cells sort as they move, and cell fate is dependent on the identity of neighbors once the cells have converged to form the sensory placode. Thus there is degeneracy built into the system such that cells accommodate changes in the environment until cell migrations controlling the formation of the sensory placodes are complete.

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