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Brain Struct Funct. 2017 Mar;222(2):1053-1060. doi: 10.1007/s00429-015-1172-y. Epub 2016 Jan 2.

Evidence for expansion of the precuneus in human evolution.

Bruner E1, Preuss TM2,3,4, Chen X5,6, Rilling JK7,8,9,10,11.

Author information

1
Programa de Paleobiología, Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana, Burgos, Spain.
2
Division of Neuropharmacology and Neurologic Diseases, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.
3
Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Atlanta, USA.
4
Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.
5
Department of Anthropology, Emory University, 1557 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA.
6
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.
7
Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Atlanta, USA. jrillin@emory.edu.
8
Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, USA. jrillin@emory.edu.
9
Department of Anthropology, Emory University, 1557 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA. jrillin@emory.edu.
10
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, USA. jrillin@emory.edu.
11
Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, USA. jrillin@emory.edu.

Abstract

The evolution of neurocranial morphology in Homo sapiens is characterized by bulging of the parietal region, a feature unique to our species. In modern humans, expansion of the parietal surface occurs during the first year of life, in a morphogenetic stage which is absent in chimpanzees and Neandertals. A similar variation in brain shape among living adult humans is associated with expansion of the precuneus. Using MRI-derived structural brain templates, we compare medial brain morphology between humans and chimpanzees through shape analysis and geometrical modeling. We find that the main spatial difference is a prominent expansion of the precuneus in our species, providing further evidence of evolutionary changes associated with this area. The precuneus is a major hub of brain organization, a central node of the default-mode network, and plays an essential role in visuospatial integration. Together, the comparative neuroanatomical and paleontological evidence suggest that precuneus expansion is a neurological specialization of H. sapiens that evolved in the last 150,000 years that may be associated with recent human cognitive specializations.

KEYWORDS:

Evolutionary neuroanatomy; Human evolution; Morphometrics; Parietal lobes

PMID:
26725108
PMCID:
PMC4930733
DOI:
10.1007/s00429-015-1172-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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