Cortical Organization in Insectivora: The Parallel Evolution of the Sensory Periphery and the BrainCatania K.C.
Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., USA
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Insectivores are traditionally described as a primitive group that has not changed much in the course of mammalian evolution. In contrast, recent studies reveal a great diversity of sensorimotor specializations among insectivores adapted to a number of different ecological niches, indicating that there has been significant diversification and change in the course of their evolution. Here the organization of sensory cortex is compared in the African hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), the masked shrew (Sorex cinereus), the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus), and the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata). Each of these four closely related species lives in a unique ecological niche, exhibits a different repertoire of behaviors, and has a different configuration of peripheral sensory receptors. Corresponding specializations of cortical sensory areas reveal a number of ways in which the cortex has evolved in parallel with changes to the sensory periphery. These specializations include expansion of cortical representations (cortical magnification), the addition or loss of cortical areas in the processing network, and the subdivision of areas into modules (barrels and stripes).
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