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Striedter, GF, Belgard TG, Chen CC, Davis FP, Finlay BL, Gunturkun O, Hale ME, Harris JA, Hecht EE, Hof PR, Hofmann HA, Holland LZ, Iwaniuk AN, Jarvis ED, Karten HJ, Katz PS, Kristan WB, Macagno ER, Mitra PP, Moroz LL, Preuss TM, Ragsdale CW, Sherwood CC, Stevens CF, Stuttgen MC, Tsumoto T, Wilczynski W.  2014.  NSF workshop report: Discovering general principles of nervous system organization by comparing brain maps across species. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 522:1445-1453.   10.1002/cne.23568   AbstractWebsite

Efforts to understand nervous system structure and function have received new impetus from the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Comparative analyses can contribute to this effort by leading to the discovery of general principles of neural circuit design, information processing, and gene-structure-function relationships that are not apparent from studies on single species. We here propose to extend the comparative approach to nervous system maps' comprising molecular, anatomical, and physiological data. This research will identify which neural features are likely to generalize across species, and which are unlikely to be broadly conserved. It will also suggest causal relationships between genes, development, adult anatomy, physiology, and, ultimately, behavior. These causal hypotheses can then be tested experimentally. Finally, insights from comparative research can inspire and guide technological development. To promote this research agenda, we recommend that teams of investigators coalesce around specific research questions and select a set of reference species' to anchor their comparative analyses. These reference species should be chosen not just for practical advantages, but also with regard for their phylogenetic position, behavioral repertoire, well-annotated genome, or other strategic reasons. We envision that the nervous systems of these reference species will be mapped in more detail than those of other species. The collected data may range from the molecular to the behavioral, depending on the research question. To integrate across levels of analysis and across species, standards for data collection, annotation, archiving, and distribution must be developed and respected. To that end, it will help to form networks or consortia of researchers and centers for science, technology, and education that focus on organized data collection, distribution, and training. These activities could be supported, at least in part, through existing mechanisms at NSF, NIH, and other agencies. It will also be important to develop new integrated software and database systems for cross-species data analyses. Multidisciplinary efforts to develop such analytical tools should be supported financially. Finally, training opportunities should be created to stimulate multidisciplinary, integrative research into brain structure, function, and evolution. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:1445-1453, 2014. (c) 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Holland, LZ, Holland ND.  1998.  Developmental gene expression in amphioxus: New insights into the evolutionary origin of vertebrate brain regions, neural crest, and rostrocaudal segmentation. American Zoologist. 38:647-658. AbstractWebsite

Amphioxus is widely held to be the closest invertebrate relative of the vertebrates and the best available stand-in for the proximate ancestor of the vertebrates. The spatiotemporal expression patterns of developmental genes can help suggest body part homologies between vertebrates and amphioxus, This approach is illustrated using five homeobox genes (AmphiHox1, AmphiHox2, AmphiOtx, AmphiDll, and AmphiEn) to pro,ide insights into the evolutionary origins of three important vertebrate features: the major brain regions, the neural crest, and rostrocaudal segmentation. During amphioxus development, the neural expression patterns of these genes are consistent with the presence of a forebrain (detailed neuroanatomy indicates that the forebrain is all diencephalon without any telencephalon) and an extensive hindbrain; the possible presence of a midbrain requires additional study. Further, during neurulation, the expression pattern of AmphiDll as web as migratory cell behavior suggest that the epidermal cells bordering the neural plate may represent a phylogenetic precursor of the vertebrate neural crest. Finally, when the paraxial mesoderm begins to segment, the earliest expression of AmphiEn is detected in the posterior part of each nascent and newly formed somite, This pattern recalls the expression of the segment-polarity gene engrailed during establishment of the segments of metameric protostomes. Thus, during animal evolution, the role of engrailed in establishing and maintaining metameric body plans may have arisen in a common segmented ancestor of both the protostomes and deuterostomes.