Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 9;109(41):16480-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117943109. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Prolonged myelination in human neocortical evolution.

Author information

1
Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.

Abstract

Nerve myelination facilitates saltatory action potential conduction and exhibits spatiotemporal variation during development associated with the acquisition of behavioral and cognitive maturity. Although human cognitive development is unique, it is not known whether the ontogenetic progression of myelination in the human neocortex is evolutionarily exceptional. In this study, we quantified myelinated axon fiber length density and the expression of myelin-related proteins throughout postnatal life in the somatosensory (areas 3b/3a/1/2), motor (area 4), frontopolar (prefrontal area 10), and visual (areas 17/18) neocortex of chimpanzees (N = 20) and humans (N = 33). Our examination revealed that neocortical myelination is developmentally protracted in humans compared with chimpanzees. In chimpanzees, the density of myelinated axons increased steadily until adult-like levels were achieved at approximately the time of sexual maturity. In contrast, humans displayed slower myelination during childhood, characterized by a delayed period of maturation that extended beyond late adolescence. This comparative research contributes evidence crucial to understanding the evolution of human cognition and behavior, which arises from the unfolding of nervous system development within the context of an enriched cultural environment. Perturbations of normal developmental processes and the decreased expression of myelin-related molecules have been related to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Thus, these species differences suggest that the human-specific shift in the timing of cortical maturation during adolescence may have implications for vulnerability to certain psychiatric disorders.

PMID:
23012402
PMCID:
PMC3478650
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1117943109
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center