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The conserved brain design that primates inherited from early mammals differs from the variable adult brain size and species-specific brain dominances observed across mammals. This variability relies on the emergence of specialized cerebral cortical regions and sub-compartments, triggering an increase in brain size, areal interconnectivity and histological complexity that ultimately lies on the activation of developmental programs. Structural placental features are not well correlated with brain enlargement; however, several endocrine pathways could be tuned with the activation of neuronal progenitors in the proliferative neocortical compartments. In this article, we reviewed some mechanisms of eutherians maternal-fetal unit interactions associated with brain development and evolution. We propose a hypothesis of brain evolution where proliferative compartments in primates become activated by "non-classical" endocrine placental signals participating in different steps of corticogenesis. Changes in the inner placental structure, along with placenta endocrine stimuli over the cortical proliferative activity would allow mammalian brain enlargement with a concomitant shorter gestation span, as an evolutionary strategy to escape from parent-offspring conflict.

Original publication

DOI

10.3389/fnana.2013.00022

Type

Journal article

Journal

Front Neuroanat

Publication Date

2013

Volume

7

Keywords

cerebral cortex development, eutherians, evolution, maternal–fetal unit, placenta, serotonin, transcriptome