Gorillas and orangutans are primates at least as large as humans, but their brains amount to about one third of the size of the human brain. This discrepancy has been used as evidence that the human brain is about 3 times larger than it should be for a primate species of its body size. In contrast to the view that the human brain is special in its size, we have suggested that it is the great apes that might have evolved bodies that are unusually large, on the basis of our recent finding that the cellular composition of the human brain matches that expected for a primate brain of its size, making the human brain a linearly scaled-up primate brain in its number of cells. To investigate whether the brain of great apes also conforms to the primate cellular scaling rules identified previously, we determine the numbers of neuronal and other cells that compose the orangutan and gorilla cerebella, use these numbers to calculate the size of the brain and of the cerebral cortex expected for these species, and show that these match the sizes described in the literature. Our results suggest that the brains of great apes also scale linearly in their numbers of neurons like other primate brains, including humans. The conformity of great apes and humans to the linear cellular scaling rules that apply to other primates that diverged earlier in primate evolution indicates that prehistoric Homo species as well as other hominins must have had brains that conformed to the same scaling rules, irrespective of their body size. We then used those scaling rules and published estimated brain volumes for various hominin species to predict the numbers of neurons that composed their brains. We predict that Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis had brains with approximately 80 billion neurons, within the range of variation found in modern Homo sapiens. We propose that while the cellular scaling rules that apply to the primate brain have remained stable in hominin evolution (since they apply to simians, great apes and modern humans alike), the Colobinae and Pongidae lineages favored marked increases in body size rather than brain size from the common ancestor with the Homo lineage, while the Homo lineage seems to have favored a large brain instead of a large body, possibly due to the metabolic limitations to having both.
Allometry; Brain size; Great apes; Human; Evolution, human; Neurons, number
Insectivores represent extremes in mammalian body size and brain size, retaining various “primitive” morphological characteristics, and some species of Insectivora are thought to share similarities with small-bodied ancestral eutherians. This raises the possibility that insectivore brains differ from other taxa, including rodents and primates, in cellular scaling properties. Here we examine the cellular scaling rules for insectivore brains and demonstrate that insectivore scaling rules overlap somewhat with those for rodents and primates such that the insectivore cortex shares scaling rules with rodents (increasing faster in size than in numbers of neurons), but the insectivore cerebellum shares scaling rules with primates (increasing isometrically). Brain structures pooled as “remaining areas” appear to scale similarly across all three mammalian orders with respect to numbers of neurons, and the numbers of non-neurons appear to scale similarly across all brain structures for all three orders. Therefore, common scaling rules exist, to different extents, between insectivore, rodent, and primate brain regions, and it is hypothesized that insectivores represent the common aspects of each order. The olfactory bulbs of insectivores, however, offer a noteworthy exception in that neuronal density increases linearly with increasing structure mass. This implies that the average neuronal cell size decreases with increasing olfactory bulb mass in order to accommodate greater neuronal density, and represents the first documentation of a brain structure gaining neurons at a greater rate than mass. This might allow insectivore brains to concentrate more neurons within the olfactory bulbs without a prohibitively large and metabolically costly increase in structure mass.
allometry; brain size; comparative neuroanatomy; glia; neurons; evolution; olfactory bulb
The spinal cord can be considered a major sensorimotor interface between the body and the brain. How does the spinal cord scale with body and brain mass, and how are its numbers of neurons related to the number of neurons in the brain across species of different body and brain sizes? Here we determine the cellular composition of the spinal cord in eight primate species and find that its number of neurons varies as a linear function of cord length, and accompanies body mass raised to an exponent close to 1/3. This relationship suggests that the extension, mass and number of neurons that compose the spinal cord are related to body length, rather than to body mass or surface. Moreover, we show that although brain mass increases linearly with cord mass, the number of neurons in the brain increases with the number of neurons in the spinal cord raised to the power of 1.7. This faster addition of neurons to the brain than to the spinal cord is consistent with current views on how larger brains add complexity to the processing of environmental and somatic information.
Allometry; Number of neurons; Evolution; Connectivity
What are the rules relating the size of the brain and its structures to the number of cells that compose them and their average sizes? We have shown previously that the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size as a linear function of their numbers of neurons and non-neuronal cells across 6 species of primates. Here we describe that the cellular composition of the same brain structures of 5 other primate species, as well as humans, conform to the scaling rules identified previously, and that the updated power functions for the extended sample are similar to those determined earlier. Accounting for phylogenetic relatedness in the combined dataset does not affect the scaling slopes that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum, but alters the slope for the remaining brain structures to a value that is similar to that observed in rodents, which raises the possibility that the neuronal scaling rules for these structures are shared among rodents and primates. The conformity of the new set of primate species to the previous rules strongly suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to primates in general, including humans, and not only to particular subgroups of primate species. In contrast, the allometric rules relating body and brain size are highly sensitive to the particular species sampled, suggesting that brain size is neither determined by body size nor together with it, but is rather only loosely correlated with body size.
Allometry; Brain size; Evolution; Glia, number; Neurons, number; Primates
The von Economo neurons (VENs) are large bipolar neurons located in fronto-insular cortex (FI) and anterior limbic area (LA) in great apes and humans but not in other primates. Our stereological counts of VENs in FI and LA show them to be more numerous in humans than in apes. In humans, small numbers of VENs appear the 36th week post conception, with numbers increasing during the first eight months after birth. There are significantly more VENs in the right hemisphere in postnatal brains; this may be related to asymmetries in the autonomic nervous system. VENs are also present in elephants and whales and may be a specialization related to very large brain size. The large size and simple dendritic structure of these projection neurons suggest that they rapidly send basic information from FI and LA to other parts of the brain, while slower neighboring pyramids send more detailed information. Selective destruction of VENs in early stages of fronto-temporal dementia implies that they are involved in empathy, social awareness, and self-control, consistent with evidence from functional imaging.
fronto-temporal dementia; autism; schizophrenia; empathy; disgust; self-awareness; hemispheric specialization
Von Economo neurons (VENs) are defined by their thin, elongated cell body and long dendrites projecting from apical and basal ends. These distinctive neurons are mostly present in anterior cingulate (ACC) and fronto-insular (FI) cortex, with particularly high densities in cetaceans, elephants, and hominoid primates (i.e., humans and apes). This distribution suggests that VENs contribute to specializations of neural circuits in species that share both large brain size and complex social cognition, possibly representing an adaptation to rapidly relay socially-relevant information over long distances across the brain. Recent evidence indicates that unique patterns of protein expression may also characterize VENs, particularly involving molecules that are known to regulate gut and immune function. In this study, we used quantitative stereologic methods to examine the expression of three such proteins that are localized in VENs – activating-transcription factor 3 (ATF3), interleukin 4 receptor (IL4Rα) and neuromedin B (NMB). We quantified immunoreactivity against these proteins in different morphological classes of ACC layer V neurons of hominoids. Among the different neuron types analyzed (pyramidal, VEN, fork, enveloping, and other multipolar), VENs showed the greatest percentage that displayed immunostaining. Additionally, a higher proportion of VENs in humans were immunoreactive to ATF3, IL4Rα, and NMB than in other apes. No other ACC layer V neuron type displayed a significant species difference in the percentage of immunoreactive neurons. These findings demonstrate that phylogenetic variation exists in the protein expression profile of VENs, suggesting that humans might have evolved biochemical specializations for enhanced interoceptive sensitivity.
brain; evolution; ape; human; neuron
Brain size scales as different functions of its number of neurons across mammalian orders such as rodents, primates, and insectivores. In rodents, we have previously shown that, across a sample of 6 species, from mouse to capybara, the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size faster than they gain neurons, with an accompanying decrease in neuronal density in these structures [Herculano-Houzel et al.: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006;103:12138–12143]. Important remaining questions are whether such neuronal scaling rules within an order apply equally to all pertaining species, and whether they extend to closely related taxa. Here, we examine whether 4 other species of Rodentia, as well as the closely related rabbit (Lagomorpha), conform to the scaling rules identified previously for rodents. We report the updated neuronal scaling rules obtained for the average values of each species in a way that is directly comparable to the scaling rules that apply to primates [Gabi et al.: Brain Behav Evol 2010;76:32–44], and examine whether the scaling relationships are affected when phylogenetic relatedness in the dataset is accounted for. We have found that the brains of the spiny rat, squirrel, prairie dog and rabbit conform to the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the previous sample of rodents. The conformity to the previous rules of the new set of species, which includes the rabbit, suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to rodents in general, and probably to Glires as a whole (rodents/lagomorphs), with one notable exception: the naked mole-rat brain is apparently an outlier, with only about half of the neurons expected from its brain size in its cerebral cortex and cerebellum.
Rodents; Brain size; Evolution; Neurons; Glia; Glires
The Gray-faced Sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis) is a newly-discovered species of sengi (elephant-shrew) and is the largest known extant representative of the order Macroscelidea. The discovery of R. udzungwensis provides an opportunity to investigate the scaling relationship between brain size and body size within Macroscelidea, and to compare this allometry among insectivorous species of Afrotheria and other eutherian insectivores. We performed a spin-echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a preserved adult specimen of R. udzungwensis using a 7-Tesla high-field MR imaging system. The brain was manually segmented and its volume was compiled into a dataset containing previously-published allometric data on 56 other species of insectivore-grade mammals including representatives of Afrotheria, Soricomorpha and Erinaceomorpha. Results of log-linear regression indicate that R. udzungwensis exhibits a brain size that is consistent with the allometric trend described by other members of its order. Inter-specific comparisons indicate that macroscelideans as a group have relatively large brains when compared with similarly-sized terrestrial mammals that also share a similar diet. This high degree of encephalization within sengis remains robust whether sengis are compared with closely-related insectivorous afrotheres, or with more-distantly-related insectivorous laurasiatheres.
It is usually considered that larger brains have larger neurons, which consume more energy individually, and are therefore accompanied by a larger number of glial cells per neuron. These notions, however, have never been tested. Based on glucose and oxygen metabolic rates in awake animals and their recently determined numbers of neurons, here I show that, contrary to the expected, the estimated glucose use per neuron is remarkably constant, varying only by 40% across the six species of rodents and primates (including humans). The estimated average glucose use per neuron does not correlate with neuronal density in any structure. This suggests that the energy budget of the whole brain per neuron is fixed across species and brain sizes, such that total glucose use by the brain as a whole, by the cerebral cortex and also by the cerebellum alone are linear functions of the number of neurons in the structures across the species (although the average glucose consumption per neuron is at least 10× higher in the cerebral cortex than in the cerebellum). These results indicate that the apparently remarkable use in humans of 20% of the whole body energy budget by a brain that represents only 2% of body mass is explained simply by its large number of neurons. Because synaptic activity is considered the major determinant of metabolic cost, a conserved energy budget per neuron has several profound implications for synaptic homeostasis and the regulation of firing rates, synaptic plasticity, brain imaging, pathologies, and for brain scaling in evolution.
Cetaceans (dolphins and whales) have undergone a radical transformation from the original mammalian bodyplan. In addition, some cetaceans have evolved large brains and complex cognitive capacities. We compared approximately 10 000 protein-coding genes culled from the bottlenose dolphin genome with nine other genomes to reveal molecular correlates of the remarkable phenotypic features of these aquatic mammals. Evolutionary analyses demonstrated that the overall synonymous substitution rate in dolphins has slowed compared with other studied mammals, and is within the range of primates and elephants. We also discovered 228 genes potentially under positive selection (dN/dS > 1) in the dolphin lineage. Twenty-seven of these genes are associated with the nervous system, including those related to human intellectual disabilities, synaptic plasticity and sleep. In addition, genes expressed in the mitochondrion have a significantly higher mean dN/dS ratio in the dolphin lineage than others examined, indicating evolution in energy metabolism. We encountered selection in other genes potentially related to cetacean adaptations such as glucose and lipid metabolism, dermal and lung development, and the cardiovascular system. This study underlines the parallel molecular trajectory of cetaceans with other mammalian groups possessing large brains.
dolphin; Cetacea; brain; genome; evolution; metabolism
The clever choice of animal models has been instrumental for many breakthrough discoveries in life sciences. One of the outstanding challenges in neuroscience is the in-depth analysis of neuronal circuits to understand how interactions between large numbers of neurons give rise to the computational power of the brain. A promising model organism to address this challenge is the zebrafish, not only because it is cheap, transparent and accessible to sophisticated genetic manipulations but also because it offers unique advantages for quantitative analyses of circuit structure and function. One of the most important advantages of zebrafish is its small brain size, both at larval and adult stages. Small brains enable exhaustive measurements of neuronal activity patterns by optical imaging and facilitate large-scale reconstructions of wiring diagrams by electron microscopic approaches. Such information is important, and probably essential, to obtain mechanistic insights into neuronal computations underlying higher brain functions and dysfunctions. This review provides a brief overview over current methods and motivations for dense reconstructions of neuronal activity and connectivity patterns. It then discusses selective advantages of zebrafish and provides examples how these advantages are exploited to study neuronal computations in the olfactory bulb.
zebrafish; neuronal circuit; reconstruction; activity pattern; olfactory system
Glutamate (Glu) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are major neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain which regulate brain development at molecular, cellular, and systems level. Sedative, anesthetic, and antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) interact with glutamate and GABA receptors to produce their desired effects. The question is posed whether such interference with glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission may exert undesired, and perhaps even detrimental effects on human brain development. Preclinical research in rodents and non-human primates has provided extensive evidence that sedative, anesthetic, and AEDs can trigger suicide of neurons and oligodendroglia, suppress neurogenesis, and inhibit normal synapse development and sculpting. Behavioral correlates in rodents and non-human primates consist of long-lasting cognitive impairment. Retrospective clinical studies in humans exposed to anesthetics or AEDs in utero, during infancy or early childhood have delivered conflicting but concerning results in terms of a correlation between drug exposure and impaired neurodevelopmental outcomes. Prospective studies are currently ongoing. This review provides a short overview of the current state of knowledge on this topic.
glutamate; N-methyl-d-aspartate; GABA; apoptosis; neurogenesis; synaptogenesis; neurodevelopmental disorder
At later ages, humans have high risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) which may afflict up to 50% by 90 years. While prosimians and monkeys show more substantial changes, the great apes brains examined show mild neurodegenerative changes. Compared with rodents, primates develop and reproduce slowly and are long lived. The New World primates contain some of the shortest as well as some of the longest-lived monkey species, while the prosimians develop the most rapidly and are the shortest lived. Great apes have the largest brains, slowest development, and longest lives among the primates. All primates share some level of slowly progressive, age-related neurodegenerative changes. However, no species besides humans has yet shown regular drastic neuron loss or cognitive decline approaching clinical grade AD. Several primates accumulate extensive deposits of diffuse amyloid-beta protein (Aβ) but only a prosimian—the gray mouse lemur—regularly develops a tauopathy approaching the neurofibrillary tangles of AD. Compared with monkeys, nonhuman great apes display even milder brain-aging changes, a deeply puzzling observation. The genetic basis for these major species differences in brain aging remains obscure but does not involve the Aβ coding sequence which is identical in nonhuman primates and humans. While chimpanzees merit more study, we note the value of smaller, shorter-lived species such as marmosets and small lemurs for aging studies. A continuing concern for all aging studies employing primates is that relative to laboratory rodents, primate husbandry is in a relatively primitive state, and better husbandry to control infections and obesity is needed for brain aging research.
Brain aging; Neuropathology; Primates; Alzheimer disease; Primate life histories; Animal husbandry
The ‘social brain hypothesis’ for the evolution of large brains in primates has led to evidence for the coevolution of neocortical size and social group sizes, suggesting that there is a cognitive constraint on group size that depends, in some way, on the volume of neural material available for processing and synthesizing information on social relationships. More recently, work on both human and non-human primates has suggested that social groups are often hierarchically structured. We combine data on human grouping patterns in a comprehensive and systematic study. Using fractal analysis, we identify, with high statistical confidence, a discrete hierarchy of group sizes with a preferred scaling ratio close to three: rather than a single or a continuous spectrum of group sizes, humans spontaneously form groups of preferred sizes organized in a geometrical series approximating 3–5, 9–15, 30–45, etc. Such discrete scale invariance could be related to that identified in signatures of herding behaviour in financial markets and might reflect a hierarchical processing of social nearness by human brains.
social brain hypothesis; social group size; log-periodicity; fractal analysis
Several theories have been proposed to explain the evolution of species differences in brain size, but no consensus has emerged. One unresolved question is whether brain size differences are a result of neural specializations or of biological constraints affecting the whole brain. Here I show that, among primates, brain size variation is associated with visual specialization. Primates with large brains for their body size have relatively expanded visual brain areas, including the primary visual cortex and lateral geniculate nucleus. Within the visual system, it is, in particular, one functionally specialized pathway upon which selection has acted: evolutionary changes in the number of neurons in parvocellular, but not magnocellular, layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus are correlated with changes in both brain size and ecological variables (diet and social group size). Given the known functions of the parvocellular pathway, these results suggest that the relatively large brains of frugivorous species are products of selection on the ability to perceive and select fruits using specific visual cues such as colour. The separate correlation between group size and visual brain evolution, on the other hand, may indicate the visual basis of social information processing in the primate brain.
Human brain organization is built upon a more ancient adaptation, the large brain of simian primates: on average, monkeys and apes have brains twice as large as expected for mammals of their size, principally as a result of neocortical enlargement. Testing the adaptive benefit of this evolutionary specialization depends on finding an association between brain size and function in primates. However, most cognitive capacities have been assessed in only a restricted range of species under laboratory conditions. Deception of conspecifics in social circumstances is an exception, because a corpus of field data is available that encompasses all major lines of the primate radiation. We show that the use of deception within the primates is well predicted by the neocortical volume, when observer effort is controlled for; by contrast, neither the size of the rest of the brain nor the group size exert significant effects. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that neocortical expansion has been driven by social challenges among the primates. Complex social manipulations such as deception are thought to be based upon rapid learning and extensive social knowledge; thus, learning in social contexts may be constrained by neocortical size.
Human neurons express the innate immune response receptor, Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3). TLR3 levels are increased in pathological conditions such as brain virus infection. Here, we further investigated the production, cellular localisation, and function of neuronal TLR3 during neuronotropic rabies virus (RABV) infection in human neuronal cells. Following RABV infection, TLR3 is not only present in endosomes, as observed in the absence of infection, but also in detergent-resistant perinuclear inclusion bodies. As well as TLR3, these inclusion bodies contain the viral genome and viral proteins (N and P, but not G). The size and composition of inclusion bodies and the absence of a surrounding membrane, as shown by electron microscopy, suggest they correspond to the previously described Negri Bodies (NBs). NBs are not formed in the absence of TLR3, and TLR3−/− mice—in which brain tissue was less severely infected—had a better survival rate than WT mice. These observations demonstrate that TLR3 is a major molecule involved in the spatial arrangement of RABV–induced NBs and viral replication. This study shows how viruses can exploit cellular proteins and compartmentalisation for their own benefit.
Viruses are obligate parasites. The progression of their life cycle depends on their hijacking the cellular metabolism and machinery. Human neurons produce TLR3, a protein involved in early host defence mechanisms and the modulation of neuronal survival. Rabies virus is a neurotropic virus, infecting mainly neurons. In this study, we showed that rabies virus exploits TLR3 function to store viral proteins and viral genomic material in particular areas of the cell where virus multiplication occurs. We found that, during the course of infection, large (1–3 µm) spherical inclusions were formed within the region around the nucleus. These inclusions were composed of an inner core of aggregated TLR3 surrounded by a coat of viral proteins and genomic material. These inclusions were revealed to be the previously described Negri Bodies (NBs). In absence of TLR3, NBs were no longer formed and virus multiplication rate decreased. Mice deficient in TLR3 were more resistant to rabies and had lower levels of infection in their brains. This study shows how neurotropic viruses, such as rabies virus, hijack normal functions of neuronal proteins and use cell compartmentalisation to promote viral multiplication.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) greatly increases the risk for a number of mental health problems and is one of the most common causes of medically intractable epilepsy in humans. Several models of TBI have been developed to investigate the relationship between trauma, seizures, and epilepsy-related changes in neural circuit function. These studies have shown that the brain initiates immediate neuronal and glial responses following an injury, usually leading to significant cell loss in areas of the injured brain. Over time, long-term changes in the organization of neural circuits, particularly in neocortex and hippocampus, lead to an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission and increased risk for spontaneous seizures. These include alterations to inhibitory interneurons and formation of new, excessive recurrent excitatory synaptic connectivity. Here, we review in vivo models of TBI as well as key cellular mechanisms of synaptic reorganization associated with post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE). The potential role of inflammation and increased blood–brain barrier permeability in the pathophysiology of PTE is also discussed. A better understanding of mechanisms that promote the generation of epileptic activity versus those that promote compensatory brain repair and functional recovery should aid development of successful new therapies for PTE.
epilepsy; epileptogenesis; neuroinflammation; pilocarpine; seizures; synapse; traumatic brain injury
Optogenetics is a technique for controlling subpopulations of neurons in the intact brain using light. This technique has the potential to enhance basic systems neuroscience research and to inform the mechanisms and treatment of brain injury and disease. Before launching large-scale primate studies, the method needs to be further characterized and adapted for use in the primate brain. We assessed the safety and efficiency of two viral vector systems (lentivirus and adeno-associated virus), two human promoters (human synapsin (hSyn) and human thymocyte-1 (hThy-1)) and three excitatory and inhibitory mammalian codon-optimized opsins (channelrhodopsin-2, enhanced Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin and the step-function opsin), which we characterized electrophysiologically, histologically and behaviorally in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). We also introduced a new device for measuring in vivo fluorescence over time, allowing minimally invasive assessment of construct expression in the intact brain. We present a set of optogenetic tools designed for optogenetic experiments in the non-human primate brain.
The non-human primate is an important translational species for understanding the normal function and disease processes of the human brain. Unbiased stereology, the method accepted as state-of-the-art for quantification of biological objects in tissue sections2, generates reliable structural data for biological features in the mammalian brain3. The key components of the approach are unbiased (systematic-random) sampling of anatomically defined structures (reference spaces), combined with quantification of cell numbers and size, fiber and capillary lengths, surface areas, regional volumes and spatial distributions of biological objects within the reference space4. Among the advantages of these stereological approaches over previous methods is the avoidance of all known sources of systematic (non-random) error arising from faulty assumptions and non-verifiable models. This study documents a biological application of computerized stereology to estimate the total neuronal population in the frontal cortex of the vervet monkey brain (Chlorocebus aethiops sabeus), with assistance from two commercially available stereology programs, BioQuant Life Sciences and Stereologer (Figure 1). In addition to contrast and comparison of results from both the BioQuant and Stereologer systems, this study provides a detailed protocol for the Stereologer system.
The glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactive astroglial layout of the cerebral cortex from Albert Einstein and other four age-matched human cases lacking any known neurological disease was analyzed using quantification of geometrical features mathematically defined. Several parameters (parallelism, relative depth, tortuosity) describing the primate-specific interlaminar glial processes did not show individually distinctive characteristics in any of the samples analyzed. However, A. Einstein's astrocytic processes showed larger sizes and higher numbers of interlaminar terminal masses, reaching sizes of 15 μm in diameter. These bulbous endings are of unknown significance and they have been described occurring in Alzheimer's disease. These observations are placed in the context of the general discussion regarding the proposal – by other authors – that structural, postmortem characteristics of the aged brain of Albert Einstein may serve as markers of his cognitive performance, a proposal to which the authors of this paper do not subscribe, and argue against.
Interlaminar astroglia; Astroglial layout; Primate cerebral cortex; Cerebral cortex organization; Human brain
Mutations in DJ-1 cause autosomal recessive, early-onset Parkinson's disease (PD). The precise function and distribution of DJ-1 in the central nervous system remain unclear. In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of DJ-1 expression in human, monkey, and rat brains using antibodies that recognize distinct, evolutionarily conserved epitopes of DJ-1. We found that DJ-1 displays region-specific neuronal and glial labeling in human and non-human primate brain, sharply contrasting the primarily neuronal expression pattern observed throughout rat brain. Further immunohistochemical analysis of DJ-1 expression in human and non-human primate brains showed that DJ-1 protein is expressed in neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta and striatum, two regions critically involved in PD pathogenesis. Moreover, immunoelectron microscopic analysis revealed a selective enrichment of DJ-1 within primate striatal axons, presynaptic terminals, and dendritic spines with respect to the DJ-1 expression in prefrontal cortex. Together, these findings indicate neuronal and synaptic expression of DJ-1 in primate subcortical brain regions and suggest a physiological role for DJ-1 in the survival and/or function of nigral-striatal neurons.
PARK7; substantia nigra; striatum; electron microscopy; primate brain; distribution
Structural imaging research offers excellent translational benefits when non-human primate (NHP) models are employed. In this paper, we will discuss the development of anatomical MR imaging protocols for two important applications of structural imaging in NHP: studies of genetic variability in brain morphology and longitudinal imaging of fetal brain maturation trends. In contrast with imaging studies of adult humans, structural imaging in the NHP is challenging due to a comparatively small brain size (2-200 fold smaller volume, depending on the species). This difference in size is further accentuated in NHP studies of brain development, in which fetal brain volumes are 10-50% of their adult size. The sizes of cortical gyri and sulci scale allometrically with brain size. Thus, achieving spatial sampling that is comparable to that of high-quality human studies (∼1.0 mm3) requires a brain-size-adjusted reduction in the sampling volumes of from 500-to-150 microns3. Imaging at this spatial resolution while maintaining sufficient contrast and signal to noise ratio necessitates the development of specialized MRI protocols. Here we discuss our strategy to optimize the protocol parameters for two commonly available structural imaging sequences: MPRAGE and TrueFisp. In addition, computational tools developed for the analysis of human structural images were applied to the NHP studies. These included removal of non-brain tissues, correction for RF inhomogeneity, spatial normalization, building of optimized target brain and analysis of cerebral gyrification and individual cortical variability. Finally, recent findings in the genetics of cerebral gyrification and tracking of maturation trends in the fetal, newborn and adult brain are described
Humans are metacognitive: they monitor and control their cognition. Our hypothesis was that neuronal correlates of metacognition reside in the same brain areas responsible for cognition, including frontal cortex. Recent work demonstrated that non-human primates are capable of metacognition, so we recorded from single neurons in the frontal eye field, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and supplementary eye field of monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that performed a metacognitive visual-oculomotor task. The animals made a decision and reported it with a saccade, but received no immediate reward or feedback. Instead, they had to monitor their decision and bet whether it was correct. Activity was correlated with decisions and bets in all three brain areas, but putative metacognitive activity that linked decisions to appropriate bets occurred exclusively in the SEF. Our results offer a survey of neuronal correlates of metacognition and implicate the SEF in linking cognitive functions over short periods of time.
The social brain hypothesis argues that large brains have arisen over evolutionary time as a response to the social and ecological conflicts inherent in group living. We test predictions arising from the hypothesis using comparative data from birds and four mammalian orders (Carnivora, Artiodactyla, Chiroptera and Primates) and show that, across all non-primate taxa, relative brain size is principally related to pairbonding, but with enduring stable relationships in primates. We argue that this reflects the cognitive demands of the behavioural coordination and synchrony that is necessary to maintain stable pairbonded relationships. However, primates differ from the other taxa in that they also exhibit a strong effect of group size on brain size. We use data from two behavioural indices of social intensity (enduring bonds between group members and time devoted to social activities) to show that primate relationships differ significantly from those of other taxa. We suggest that, among vertebrates in general, pairbonding represents a qualitative shift from loose aggregations of individuals to complex negotiated relationships, and that these bonded relationships have been generalized to all social partners in only a few taxa (such as anthropoid primates).
brain size; pairbonding; mammals; birds; primates