Psychological Research

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 212–219

The convergent evolution of neural substrates for cognition


DOI: 10.1007/s00426-011-0377-9

Cite this article as:
Güntürkün, O. Psychological Research (2012) 76: 212. doi:10.1007/s00426-011-0377-9


This review describes a case of convergence in the evolution of brain and cognition. Both mammals and birds can organize their behavior flexibly over time and evolved similar cognitive skills. The avian forebrain displays no lamination that corresponds to the mammalian neocortex; hence, lamination does not seem to be a requirement for higher cognitive functions. In mammals, executive functions are associated with the prefrontal cortex. The corresponding structure in birds is the nidopallium caudolaterale. Anatomic, neurochemical, electrophysiologic and behavioral studies show these structures to be highly similar, but not homologous. Thus, despite the presence (mammals) or the absence (birds) of a laminated forebrain, ‘prefrontal’ areas in mammals and birds converged over evolutionary time into a highly similar neural architecture. The neuroarchitectonic degrees of freedom to create different neural architectures that generate identical prefrontal functions seem to be very limited.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiopsychologyInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of PsychologyBochumGermany