Comparative Functional Anatomy of Marmoset Brains

ILAR J. 2020 Dec 31;61(2-3):260-273. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilaa026.


Marmosets and closely related tamarins have become popular models for understanding aspects of human brain organization and function because they are small, reproduce and mature rapidly, and have few cortical fissures so that more cortex is visible and accessible on the surface. They are well suited for studies of development and aging. Because marmosets are highly social primates with extensive vocal communication, marmoset studies can inform theories of the evolution of language in humans. Most importantly, marmosets share basic features of major sensory and motor systems with other primates, including those of macaque monkeys and humans with larger and more complex brains. The early stages of sensory processing, including subcortical nuclei and several cortical levels for the visual, auditory, somatosensory, and motor systems, are highly similar across primates, and thus results from marmosets are relevant for making inferences about how these systems are organized and function in humans. Nevertheless, the structures in these systems are not identical across primate species, and homologous structures are much bigger and therefore function somewhat differently in human brains. In particular, the large human brain has more cortical areas that add to the complexity of information processing and storage, as well as decision-making, while making new abilities possible, such as language. Thus, inferences about human brains based on studies on marmoset brains alone should be made with a bit of caution.

Keywords: auditory cortex; frontal cortex; motor cortex; posterior parietal cortex; sensory system; somatosensory cortex; visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain*
  • Callithrix*
  • Macaca