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Charting the protomap of the human telencephalon

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gavin ClowryORCiD, Ayman Alzu'bi, Dr Janet Kerwin



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The cerebral cortex is divided stereotypically into a number of functionally distinct areas. According to the protomap hypothesis formulated by Rakic neural progenitors in the ventricular zone form a mosaic of proliferative units that provide a primordial species-specific cortical map. Positional information of newborn neurons is maintained during their migration to the overlying cortical plate. Much evidence has been found to support this hypothesis from studies of primary cortical areas in mouse models in particular. Differential expansion of cortical areas and the introduction of new functional modules during evolution might be the result of changes in the progenitor cells. The human cerebral cortex shows a wide divergence from the mouse containing a much higher proportion of association cortex and a more complicated regionalised repertoire of neuron sub-types. To what extent does the protomap hypothesis hold true for the primate brain? This review summarises a growing number of studies exploring arealised gene expression in the early developing human telencephalon. The evidence so far is that the human and mouse brain do share fundamental mechanisms of areal specification, however there are subtle differences which could lead us to a better understanding of cortical evolution and the origins of neurodevelopmental diseases.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clowry GJ, Alzu'bi A, Harkin LF, Sarma S, Kerwin J, Lindsay S

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology

Year: 2018

Volume: 76

Pages: 3-14

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Online publication date: 20/08/2017

Acceptance date: 15/08/2017

ISSN (print): 1084-9521

ISSN (electronic): 1096-3634


DOI: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2017.08.033