The size and surface area of the mammalian brain are thought to be critical determinants of intellectual ability. Recent studies show that development of the gyrated human neocortex involves a lineage of neural stem and transit-amplifying cells that forms the outer subventricular zone (OSVZ), a proliferative region outside the ventricular epithelium. We discuss how proliferation of cells within the OSVZ expands the neocortex by increasing neuron number and modifying the trajectory of migrating neurons. Relating these features to other mammalian species and known molecular regulators of the mouse neocortex suggests how this developmental process could have emerged in evolution.
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