What is the fundamental difference of primate brains from rodent brains, which enables highly cognitive functions? Primate brains are thought to be evolved within 50 million years, while the history of vertebrate nervous systems is estimated to be 500 million years, and the history of eukaryotes is estimated to be 3 billion years. Primate brains appear very complicated, but actually evolved quickly by relatively minor changes of genetic programs, perhaps? Whereas subcortical and cerebellar structures are well-conserved between rodents and primates, the cerebral cortex is distinct in primates in terms of size and complexity.
Toru Takahata, PhD. has been studying to seek answers for questions above. His major achievements are (1) OCC1, Tes-1 and several other genes are preferentially expressed in the primary visual cortex (V1) of macaques, and this unique heterogeneity in cortical gene expression is more conspicuous in closer species to humans and not observed in non-primate mammalian species, (2) ocular dominance columns (ODCs) of V1 are more conserved among mammalian species than previously estimated, and there are more functional compartments within ODCs than previously thought.
This laboratory was launched at November, 2014 as a part of ZIINT (Zhejiang University, Interdisciplinary Institute of Neuroscience and Technology). Our major techniques are histology and molecular biology, such as in situ hybridization. We address what made our cerebral cortex so special, in molecular and cellular levels.