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Tracing cortical circuits in humans and non-human primates from high resolution connectomic, transcriptomic, and temporal dimensions

By Christine J Charvet, Kwadwo Ofori, Christine Baucum, Jianli Sun, Melinda Modrell, Khan Hekmatyar, Brian L. Edlow, Andre van der Kouwe

Posted 30 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.30.442016

The neural circuits that support human cognition are a topic of enduring interest. Yet, the lack of tools available to map human brain circuits has precluded our ability to trace the human and non-human primate connectome. We harnessed high-resolution connectomic, anatomic, and transcriptomic data to investigate the evolution and development of frontal cortex circuitry. We applied machine learning to RNA sequencing data to find corresponding ages between humans and macaques and to compare the development of circuits across species. We transcriptionally defined neural circuits by testing for associations between gene expression and white matter maturation. We then considered transcriptional and structural growth to test whether frontal cortex circuit maturation is unusually extended in humans relative to other species. We also considered gene expression and high-resolution diffusion MR tractography of adult brains to test for cross-species variation in frontal cortex circuits. We found that frontal cortex circuitry development is extended in primates, and concomitant with an expansion in cortico-cortical pathways compared with mice in adulthood. Importantly, we found that these parameters varied relatively little across humans and studied primates. These data identify a surprising collection of conserved features in frontal cortex circuits across humans and Old World monkeys. Our work demonstrates that integrating transcriptional and connectomic data across temporal dimensions is a robust approach to trace the evolution of brain connectomics in primates.

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