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Brain Behav Evol. 1998;52(4-5):232-42.

Patterns of vertebrate neurogenesis and the paths of vertebrate evolution.

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Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Any substantial change in brain size requires a change in the number of neurons and their supporting elements in the brain, which in turn requires an alteration in either the rate, or the duration of neurogenesis. The schedule of neurogenesis is surprisingly stable in mammalian brains, and increases in the duration of neurogenesis have predictable outcomes: late-generated structures become disproportionately large. The olfactory bulb and associated limbic structures may deviate in some species from this general brain enlargement: in the rhesus monkey, reduction of limbic system size appears to be produced by an advance in the onset of terminal neurogenesis in limbic system structures. Not only neurogenesis but also many other features of neural maturation such as process extension and retraction, follow the same schedule with the same predictability. Although the underlying order of event onset remains the same for all of the mammals we have yet studied, changes in overall rate of neural maturation distinguish related subclasses, such as marsupial and placental mammals, and changes in duration of neurodevelopment distinguish species within subclasses. A substantial part of the regularity of event sequence in neurogenesis can be related directly to the two dimensions of the neuraxis in a recently proposed prosomeric segmentation of the forebrain [Rubenstein et al., Science, 266: 578, 1994]. Both the spatial and temporal organization of development have been highly conserved in mammalian brain evolution, showing strong constraint on the types of brain adaptations possible. The neural mechanisms for integrative behaviors may become localized to those locations that have enough plasticity in neuron number to support them.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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