Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33367521
Link to DOI – 10.1093/cercor/bhaa365
Cereb Cortex 2021 Mar; 31(5): 2425-2449
Cognitive abilities of the human brain, including language, have expanded dramatically in the course of our recent evolution from nonhuman primates, despite only minor apparent changes at the gene level. The hypothesis we propose for this paradox relies upon fundamental features of human brain connectivity, which contribute to a characteristic anatomical, functional, and computational neural phenotype, offering a parsimonious framework for connectomic changes taking place upon the human-specific evolution of the genome. Many human connectomic features might be accounted for by substantially increased brain size within the global neural architecture of the primate brain, resulting in a larger number of neurons and areas and the sparsification, increased modularity, and laminar differentiation of cortical connections. The combination of these features with the developmental expansion of upper cortical layers, prolonged postnatal brain development, and multiplied nongenetic interactions with the physical, social, and cultural environment gives rise to categorically human-specific cognitive abilities including the recursivity of language. Thus, a small set of genetic regulatory events affecting quantitative gene expression may plausibly account for the origins of human brain connectivity and cognition.