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Rodents and primates both show considerable variation in the overall size, the radial and tangential dimensions, folding and subdivisions into distinct areas of their cerebral cortex. Our current understanding of brain development is based on a handful of model systems. A detailed comparative analysis of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate neural progenitor production, cell migration, and circuit assembly can provide much needed insights into the working of neocortical evolution. From the limited comparative data currently available, it is apparent that the emergence and variation of the neuronal progenitor cells have led to the production of increased neuronal populations and the evolution of the cortex. Further diversification and compartmentalization of the germinal zone together with changing proportions of radial glia in the ventricular zone and various intermediate progenitors in the subventricular zone may have been the driving force behind increased cell numbers in larger brains both in rodents and primates. Radial and tangential migratory patterns are both present in rodents and primates, but in different proportions. There are apparent differences between mouse and human in the generation and elaboration of the interneuronal subtypes and also in gene expression patterns associated with the appearance of distinct cortical areas. The increased cortical dimensions and the formation of a more elaborate cortical architecture in primates require a larger and more compartmentalized transient subplate zone during development. More comparative analysis in rodent and primate species with large, small, and smooth and folded brains is needed to reveal the biological significance of the alterations in these cortical developmental programs.

Original publication




Journal article


Prog Brain Res

Publication Date





45 - 70


Animals, Cerebral Cortex, Humans, Neurons, Primates, Rodentia, Stem Cells