The mammalian cerebral cortex varies enormously in absolute and relative size across species. These size differences reflect phyletic differences in the number and organization of cortical neurons, which in turn imply evolutionary changes in the developmental program that generates these neurons. Whereas patterns of symmetric and asymmetric modes of progenitor cell division during cortical neurogenesis are widely conserved among species, other proliferation parameters, including the timing and number of cell divisions, vary considerably. This variation contributes to the development of cortical size differences in mammals in general, and the expansion of neocortex in anthropoid primates (monkeys, apes, and humans) in particular. The disproportionate enlargement of anthropoid neocortex might also arise from regional 'border-shifting' within the embryonic telencephalon, causing expansion of the neurogenic region allocated for producing neocortex and concomitant diminution of neighboring olfactory regions. Neurogenesis also shows substantial phyletic differences in adult hippocampus, an archicortical structure. Therefore, variation in neurogenesis across species is not only a feature of early development, but is also a trait of adult cortical diversity.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel