Evolution of the neocortex: a perspective from developmental biology

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Oct;10(10):724-35. doi: 10.1038/nrn2719.


The enlargement and species-specific elaboration of the cerebral neocortex during evolution holds the secret to the mental abilities of humans; however, the genetic origin and cellular mechanisms that generated the distinct evolutionary advancements are not well understood. This article describes how novelties that make us human may have been introduced during evolution, based on findings in the embryonic cerebral cortex in different mammalian species. The data on the differences in gene expression, new molecular pathways and novel cellular interactions that have led to these evolutionary advances may also provide insight into the pathogenesis and therapies for human-specific neuropsychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Developmental Biology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neocortex* / cytology
  • Neocortex* / embryology
  • Neocortex* / growth & development
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Species Specificity