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Asymmetry of cortical functional hierarchy in humans and macaques suggests phylogenetic conservation and adaptation

By Bin Wan, ┼×eyma Bayrak, Ting Xu, H. Lina Schaare, Richard A. I. Bethlehem, Boris C. Bernhardt, Sofie L. Valk

Posted 04 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.03.466058

The human cerebral cortex is symmetrically organized along large-scale axes but also presents inter-hemispheric differences in structure and function. The quantified contralateral homologous difference, i.e., asymmetry, is a key feature of the human brain left-right axis supporting functional processes, such as language. Here, we assessed whether the asymmetry of cortical functional organization is heritable and phylogenetically conserved between humans and macaques. Our findings indicate asymmetric organization along an axis describing a hierarchical functional trajectory from perceptual/action to abstract cognition. Whereas language network showed leftward asymmetric organization, frontoparietal network showed rightward asymmetric organization. These asymmetries were heritable and comparable between humans and macaques, suggesting (phylo)genetic conservation. However, both language and frontoparietal networks showed a qualitatively larger asymmetry in humans relative to macaques and variable heritability in humans. This may reflect an evolutionary adaptation allowing for experience-dependent specialization, linked to higher-order cognitive functions uniquely developed in humans.

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