Translating developmental time across mammalian species

Neuroscience. 2001;105(1):7-17. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(01)00171-3.


Conservation of the order in which events occur in developing mammalian brains permits use of regression theory to model the timing of neural development. Following a small adjustment to account for a systematic variability in primate cortical and limbic systems, the model is used to generate a 95-event/nine-species matrix that predicts aspects of neurogenesis and axonal outgrowth in the brains of developing mice, hamsters, rats, spiny mice, rabbits, ferrets, cats, monkeys, and humans. Although data are compiled from species in which the timing of birth and the rate of maturation vary widely, the model proves statistically accurate, with practical implications for improving estimation of milestones of neural development, particularly for humans. Using the three-factor model (species, neural events, and primate adjustments), we produce predictions for the timing of 493 neural occurrences in developing mammalian brains that either have not yet been, or cannot be, empirically derived. We also relate the timing of neural events across the nine species in the form of a reference table calibrated to the development of laboratory rats. This 'translation' table will assist in attempts to equate the neurodevelopmental literature across species with either large or small differences in gestation and maturation, and also permit studies done in a variety of mammals to be applied to better understand human development. The comparative data indicate that humans, although conventionally considered an altricial species, are neurally advanced at birth relative to the other species studied.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology*
  • Mammals / embryology
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistical Distributions