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J Pediatr. 2003 Oct;143(4 Suppl):S35-45.

Structural and functional maturation of the developing primate brain.

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John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37203, USA.


Descriptive studies have established that the developmental events responsible for the assembly of neural systems and circuitry are conserved across mammalian species. However, primates are unique regarding the time during which histogenesis occurs and the extended postnatal period during which myelination of pathways and circuitry formation occur and are then subsequently modified, particularly in the cerebral cortex. As in lower mammals, the framework for subcortical-cortical connectivity in primates is established before midgestation and already begins to remodel before birth. Association systems, responsible for modulating intracortical circuits that integrate information across functional domains, also form before birth, but their growth and reorganization extend into puberty. There are substantial differences across species in the patterns of development of specific neurochemical systems. The complexity is even greater when considering that the development of any particular cellular component may differ among cortical areas in the same primate species. Developmental and behavioral neurobiologists, psychologists, and pediatricians are challenged with understanding how functional maturation relates to the evolving anatomical organization of the human brain during childhood, and moreover, how genetic and environmental perturbations affect the adaptive changes exhibited by neural circuits in response to developmental disruption.

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