Research Highlight: Evolution of the Brain

ENP researcher Jean-François Brunet and his team published new findings on the evolutionary origin of somatic and visceral neurons (involved, respectively, in interactions with the outside world and in monitoring the interior milieu). He and his colleagues examined the somatic and visceral sensorimotor circuits in mollusks (gastropods and cephalopods), and observed that they expressed the same specific genes than in vertebrates. They concluded that the molecular identity of neurons with locomotor, mechanoreceptive, or cardiorespiratory functions in all contemporary bilaterian animals is inherited from their common ancestor.

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Marc Nomaksteinsky, Stefan Kassabov, Zoubida Chettouh, Henri-Corto Stoeklé, Laure Bonnaud, Gilles Fortin, Eric R Kandel, and Jean-François Brunet. Ancient origin of somatic and visceral neurons. BMC Biology. 2013. 11(53): 1-11.

Figure 1 from Nomaksteinsky et al., BMC Biology, 2013. Figure illustrates the relatively few transcription factors distinguishing somatic and visceral neurons in vertebrates.