The Marmoset: The Next Frontier in Understanding the Development of the Human Brain

ILAR J. 2020 Dec 31;61(2-3):248-259. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilaa028.


Rodent models, particularly mice, have dominated the field of developmental neuroscience for decades, like they have in most fields of biomedicine research. However, with 80 million years since rodents and primates last shared a common ancestor, the use of mice to model the development of the human brain is not without many shortcomings. The human brain diverges from the mouse brain in many aspects and is comprised of novel structures as well as diversified cellular subtypes. While these newly evolved features have no equivalent in rodents, they are observed in nonhuman primates. Therefore, elucidating the cellular mechanisms underlying the development and maturation of the healthy and diseased human brain can be achieved using less complex nonhuman primates. Historically, macaques were the preferred nonhuman primate model. However, over the past decade, the New World marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus) has gained more importance, particularly in the field of neurodevelopment. With its small size, twin or triplet birth, and prosocial behavior, the marmoset is an ideal model to study normal brain development as well as neurodevelopmental disorders, which are often associated with abnormal social behaviors. The growing interest in the marmoset has prompted many comparative studies, all demonstrating that the marmoset brain closely resembles that of the human and is perfectly suited to model human brain development. The marmoset is thus poised to extend its influence in the field of neurodevelopment and will hopefully fill the gaps that the mouse has left in our understanding of how our brain forms and how neurodevelopmental disorders originate.

Keywords: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder; medial pulvinar; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; marmoset; neurodevelopment; schizophrenia; autism spectrum disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain*
  • Callithrix*
  • Humans
  • Macaca
  • Mice