Within the substantially different time scales characterizing human and rodent brain development, key developmental processes are remarkably preserved. Shared processes include neurogenesis, myelination, synaptogenesis, and neuronal and synaptic pruning. In general, altricial rodents experience greater central nervous system (CNS) immaturity at birth and accelerated postnatal development compared to humans, in which protracted development of certain processes such as neocortical myelination and synaptic maturation extend into adulthood. Within this generalization, differences in developmental rates of various structures must be understood to accurately model human neurodevelopmental toxicity in rodents. Examples include greater postnatal neurogenesis in rodents, particularly within the dentate gyrus of rats, ongoing generation of neurons in the rodent olfactory bulb, differing time lines of neurotransmitter maturation, and differing time lines of cerebellar development. Comparisons are made to the precocial guinea pig and the long-lived naked mole rat, which, like primates, experiences more advanced CNS development at birth, with more protracted postnatal development. Methods to study various developmental processes are summarized using examples of comparative postnatal injury in humans and rodents.
Keywords: central nervous system; development; human; postnatal; rat.