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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Mar 17;112(11):3517-22. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408545112. Epub 2015 Feb 17.

Coding principles of the canonical cortical microcircuit in the avian brain.

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Program in Neurobiology and Behavior.
Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, Psychology Department, and Kavli Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027


Mammalian neocortex is characterized by a layered architecture and a common or "canonical" microcircuit governing information flow among layers. This microcircuit is thought to underlie the computations required for complex behavior. Despite the absence of a six-layered cortex, birds are capable of complex cognition and behavior. In addition, the avian auditory pallium is composed of adjacent information-processing regions with genetically identified neuron types and projections among regions comparable with those found in the neocortex. Here, we show that the avian auditory pallium exhibits the same information-processing principles that define the canonical cortical microcircuit, long thought to have evolved only in mammals. These results suggest that the canonical cortical microcircuit evolved in a common ancestor of mammals and birds and provide a physiological explanation for the evolution of neural processes that give rise to complex behavior in the absence of cortical lamination.


cortex evolution; functional connectivity; sensory coding; songbird

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