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The relevance of brain evolution for the biomedical sciences

By Tom V. Smulders


Most biomedical neuroscientists realize the importance of the study of brain evolution to help them understand the differences and similarities between their animal model of choice and the human brains in which they are ultimately interested. Many think of evolution as a linear process, going from simpler brains, as those of rats, to more complex ones, as those of humans. However, in reality, every extant species' brain has undergone as long a period of evolution as has the human brain, and each brain has its own species-specific adaptations. By understanding the variety of existing brain types, we can more accurately reconstruct the brains of common ancestors, and understand which brain traits (of humans as well as other species) are derived and which are ancestral. This understanding also allows us to identify convergently evolved traits, which are crucial in formulating hypotheses about structure–function relationships in the brain. A thorough understanding of the processes and patterns of brain evolution is essential to generalizing findings from ‘model species’ to humans, which is the backbone of modern biomedical science

Topics: Opinion Piece
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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