Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 222, Issue 2, pp 1053–1060

Evidence for expansion of the precuneus in human evolution

  • Emiliano Bruner
  • Todd M. Preuss
  • Xu Chen
  • James K. Rilling
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/s00429-015-1172-y

Cite this article as:
Bruner, E., Preuss, T.M., Chen, X. et al. Brain Struct Funct (2017) 222: 1053. doi:10.1007/s00429-015-1172-y

Abstract

The evolution of neurocranial morphology in Homo sapiens is characterized by bulging of the parietal region, a feature unique to our species. In modern humans, expansion of the parietal surface occurs during the first year of life, in a morphogenetic stage which is absent in chimpanzees and Neandertals. A similar variation in brain shape among living adult humans is associated with expansion of the precuneus. Using MRI-derived structural brain templates, we compare medial brain morphology between humans and chimpanzees through shape analysis and geometrical modeling. We find that the main spatial difference is a prominent expansion of the precuneus in our species, providing further evidence of evolutionary changes associated with this area. The precuneus is a major hub of brain organization, a central node of the default-mode network, and plays an essential role in visuospatial integration. Together, the comparative neuroanatomical and paleontological evidence suggest that precuneus expansion is a neurological specialization of H. sapiens that evolved in the last 150,000 years that may be associated with recent human cognitive specializations.

Keywords

Parietal lobes Human evolution Evolutionary neuroanatomy Morphometrics 

Supplementary material

429_2015_1172_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 20 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emiliano Bruner
    • 1
  • Todd M. Preuss
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xu Chen
    • 5
    • 6
  • James K. Rilling
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Programa de PaleobiologíaCentro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución HumanaBurgosSpain
  2. 2.Division of Neuropharmacology and Neurologic Diseases, Yerkes National Primate Research CenterEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Center for Translational Social NeuroscienceAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Center for Behavioral NeuroscienceEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  7. 7.Yerkes National Primate Research CenterEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA