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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Aug 2;7:423. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00423. eCollection 2013.

The significance of the subplate for evolution and developmental plasticity of the human brain.

Author information

1
Section of Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, Croatian Institute for Brain Research, University of Zagreb School of Medicine Zagreb, Croatia.

Abstract

The human life-history is characterized by long development and introduction of new developmental stages, such as childhood and adolescence. The developing brain had important role in these life-history changes because it is expensive tissue which uses up to 80% of resting metabolic rate (RMR) in the newborn and continues to use almost 50% of it during the first 5 postnatal years. Our hominid ancestors managed to lift-up metabolic constraints to increase in brain size by several interrelated ecological, behavioral and social adaptations, such as dietary change, invention of cooking, creation of family-bonded reproductive units, and life-history changes. This opened new vistas for the developing brain, because it became possible to metabolically support transient patterns of brain organization as well as developmental brain plasticity for much longer period and with much greater number of neurons and connectivity combinations in comparison to apes. This included the shaping of cortical connections through the interaction with infant's social environment, which probably enhanced typically human evolution of language, cognition and self-awareness. In this review, we propose that the transient subplate zone and its postnatal remnant (interstitial neurons of the gyral white matter) probably served as the main playground for evolution of these developmental shifts, and describe various features that makes human subplate uniquely positioned to have such a role in comparison with other primates.

KEYWORDS:

cerebral cortex; life-history; metabolic cost; neuron number; subplate zone

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