Evolution of cortical neurogenesis.
Abdel-Mannan O., Cheung AFP., Molnár Z.
The neurons of the mammalian neocortex are organised into six layers. By contrast, the reptilian and avian dorsal cortices only have three layers which are thought to be equivalent to layers I, V and VI of mammals. Increased repertoire of mammalian higher cognitive functions is likely a result of an expanded cortical surface area. The majority of cortical cell proliferation in mammals occurs in the ventricular zone (VZ) and subventricular zone (SVZ), with a small number of scattered divisions outside the germinal zone. Comparative developmental studies suggest that the appearance of SVZ coincides with the laminar expansion of the cortex to six layers, as well as the tangential expansion of the cortical sheet seen within mammals. In spite of great variation and further compartmentalisation in the mitotic compartments, the number of neurons in an arbitrary cortical column appears to be remarkably constant within mammals. The current challenge is to understand how the emergence and elaboration of the SVZ has contributed to increased cortical cell diversity, tangential expansion and gyrus formation of the mammalian neocortex. This review discusses neurogenic processes that are believed to underlie these major changes in cortical dimensions in vertebrates.