May 23, 2024

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The effect of evolution on the shape of the brain

summary: The shape of the brain evolved in parallel with its function throughout the course of evolution.

The study examined 3D surface models of the brains of 90 species of Euarchontoglires, allowing the researchers to analyze the diversity of brain shapes and their relationship to function, behavior, and environment.

Key findings:

  1. The shape of the brain evolved in parallel with the function of the organ.
  2. 3D surface models of the brains of 90 species of Euarchontoglires, including humans, macaques, mice, rats, squirrels and hamsters, were used.
  3. The results of the study indicate that the brain expands regions of visual attention first before other regions involved in higher cognitive functions, such as language and memory, as it adapts to its environment.

source: Medical University of Vienna

The connections between brain structure and function are a major focus of neuroscience.

A new study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna with the participation of a team of international partners investigates the evolution and its relationship to the capabilities of human and animal brain structure.

The results showed that the shape of the brain evolved in parallel with the function of the organ throughout the course of evolution.

The results of the study were published in the famous journal Nature Communications.

In the study, 3D surface models of the brains of 90 species of Euarchontoglires (supraprimates), such as humans, macaques, primates, mice, rats, squirrels and hamsters, were examined.

Computer modeling of common ancestors and analysis of the shapes of neural structures were used to create a common representation of brains.

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For the first time, this made it possible to analyze the diversity of brain shapes and their relationship to function, behavior and ecology, that is, the relationship between organisms and their environment.

The results confirm that the shape of the brain has evolved in parallel with the function of the organ over the course of its evolution.

“By evaluating different growth patterns, we were able to identify seven clusters that expanded together during brain development that correspond to specific aspects of cognitive abilities in animals and humans,” explained lead author Ernst Schwartz from the Computational Imaging Research Laboratory (CIR) in the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Therapeutics. Image guide at MedUni Vienna.

The results confirm that the shape of the brain has evolved in parallel with the function of the organ over the course of its evolution. Credit: Neuroscience News

As a result, the brain adapts to its environment by expanding areas of visual attention first before other areas involved in higher cognitive functions, such as language and memory.

The study was conducted in partnership with researchers from around the world.

“The study would not have been possible without the exceptionally open and interdisciplinary international collaboration that characterized it. It combines elements of neuroscience, anatomy, paleontology, and mathematics — and involves more than a dozen laboratories around the world,” said George Lang, the study’s director.

“One of the catalysts for this work has been the interest in plasticity — the question of why some brain regions are better able to reorganize themselves during illness than others. We hope that a better understanding of brain architecture will help us gain insight into these mechanisms.”

The research findings can also help better understand the common — and different — characteristics of animals and humans.

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About this research news Evolutionary Neuroscience

author: Karen Kirchbichler
source: Medical University of Vienna
communication: Karin Kirschbichler – Medical University of Vienna
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

Original search: open access.
The evolution of cortical geometry and its relevance to function, behavior, and the environmentWritten by Ernest Schwartz et al. Nature Communications


a summary

The evolution of cortical geometry and its relevance to function, behavior, and the environment

Studies in comparative neuroanatomy and the fossil record show the influence of social and environmental outlets on the morphology of the cerebral cortex, but have often led to conflicting theories about its evolution.

Here we study the relationship between the shape of the cerebral cortex and the topography of its function.

We establish a combined cerebral cortex geometric representation of the 90 extant Euarchontoglires, including commonly used experimental organisms. We show that variation in surface geometry relates to species ecology and behavior, regardless of overall brain size.

Of note, the reconstruction of the ancestral shape of the cortical surface and its change during development enables us to trace the evolutionary history of localized cortical expansions, the typical segregation of brain function, and their association with behavior and cognition.

We find that individual cortical regions follow different sequences of area increase during evolutionary adaptations to dynamic social and environmental niches. Anatomical correlates of this sequence of events are still observed in extant species, and relate to their current behavior and ecology.

We analyze the deep evolutionary history of human cortical surface morphology into spatio-temporal components with highly interpretable functional connections, highlighting the importance of considering the evolutionary history of cortical regions when studying their anatomy and function.

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