Do Evolutionary Changes in Astrocytes Contribute to the Computational Power of the Hominid Brain?

Neurochem Res. 2017 Sep;42(9):2577-2587. doi: 10.1007/s11064-017-2363-0. Epub 2017 Aug 19.


It is now well accepted that astrocytes are essential in all major nervous system functions of the rodent brain, including neurotransmission, energy metabolism, modulation of blood flow, ion and water homeostasis, and, indeed, higher cognitive functions, although the contribution of astrocytes in cognition is still in early stages of study. Here we review the most current research findings on human astrocytes, including their structure, molecular characterization, and functional properties. We also highlight novel tools that have been established for translational approaches to the comparative study of astrocytes from humans and experimental animals. Understanding the differences in astrocytes is essential to elucidate the contribution of astrocytes to normal physiology, cognitive processing and diverse pathologies of the central nervous system.

Keywords: Evolution; Glia; Human astrocyte; Morphology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hominidae
  • Humans