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Brain Behav Evol. 2009;74(3):177-90. doi: 10.1159/000258665. Epub 2009 Dec 21.

On the independent origins of complex brains and neurons.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience and McKnight Brain Institute, Gainesville, Fla., USA.


Analysis of the origin and evolution of neurons is crucial for revealing principles of organization of neural circuits with unexpected implications for genomic sciences, biomedical applications and regenerative medicine. This article presents an overview of some controversial ideas about the origin and evolution of neurons and nervous systems, focusing on the independent origin of complex brains and possible independent origins of neurons. First, earlier hypotheses related to the origin of neurons are summarized. Second, the diversity of nervous systems and convergent evolution of complex brains in relation to current views about animal phylogeny is discussed. Third, the lineages of molluscs and basal metazoans are used as illustrated examples of multiple origins of complex brains and neurons. Finally, a hypothesis about the independent origin of complex brains, centralized nervous systems and neurons is outlined. Injury-associated mechanisms leading to secretion of signal peptides (and related molecules) can be considered as evolutionary predecessors of inter-neuronal signaling and the major factors in the appearance of neurons in the first place.

Copyright 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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