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Evolution and development of Brain Networks: From Caenorhabditis elegans to Homo sapiens

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Marcus Kaiser, Sreedevi Varier


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Neural networks show a progressive increase in complexity during the time course of evolution. From diffuse nerve nets in Cnidaria to modular, hierarchical systems in macaque and humans, there is a gradual shift from simple processes involving a limited amount of tasks and modalities to complex functional and behavioral processing integrating different kinds of information from highly specialized tissue. However, studies in a range of species suggest that fundamental similarities, in spatial and topological features as well as in developmental mechanisms for network formation, are retained across evolution. 'Small-world' topology and highly connected regions (hubs) are prevalent across the evolutionary scale, ensuring efficient processing and resilience to internal (e. g. lesions) and external (e. g. environment) changes. Furthermore, in most species, even the establishment of hubs, long-range connections linking distant components, and a modular organization, relies on similar mechanisms. In conclusion, evolutionary divergence leads to greater complexity while following essential developmental constraints.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kaiser M, Varier S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Network : computation in neural systems

Year: 2011

Volume: 22

Issue: 1-4

Pages: 143-147

Print publication date: 01/01/2011

ISSN (print): 0954-898X

ISSN (electronic): 1361-6536

Publisher: Informa Healthcare


DOI: 10.3109/0954898X.2011.638968


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Funder referenceFunder name
WCU through the National Research Foundation of Korea
R32-10142Ministry of Education, Science and Technology