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Nat Neurosci. 2001 Nov;4 Suppl:1199-206.

Mechanisms of cerebral cortical patterning in mice and humans.

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Division of Neurogenetics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


All the higher mental and cognitive functions unique to humans depend on the neocortex ('new' cortex, referring to its relatively recent appearance in evolution), which is divided into discrete areas that subserve distinct functions, such as language, movement and sensation. With a few notable exceptions, all neocortical areas have six layers of neurons and a remarkably similar thickness and overall cell density, despite subtle differences in their cellular architecture. Furthermore, all neocortical areas are formed over roughly the same time period during development and provide little hint at early developmental stages of the rich functional diversity that becomes apparent as development comes to an end. How these areas are formed has long fascinated developmental neuroscientists, because the formation of new cortical areas, with the attendant appearance of new cortical functions, is what must have driven the evolution of mammalian behavior.

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