To the list of special issues dealing with the evolution of eyes (E:EO, Phil Trans R Soc B), you can now add one on nervous systems in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Nature Reviews Neuroscience

Vol. 10, Oct. 2009 Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection has stood the test of time, with new discoveries in genetics and the mathematical basis of natural selection providing ever growing evidence for the theory. This focus issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience — sponsored by the Wellcome Trust — celebrates the contribution of Darwin's ideas to our current understanding of the evolution of the nervous system. The articles in this special issue discuss the molecular, cellular and structural changes that have contributed to CNS evolution and their functional consequences.

The origin and evolution of synapses

Tomás J. Ryan & Seth G. N. Grant

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 701-712 (2009)

Tracing the phylogeny of the molecular components of synapses, Ryan and Grant speculate on the core components of the last common ancestor of all synapses and posit that the diversification of upstream signalling components contributed to increased signalling complexity later in evolution.

Considering the evolution of regeneration in the central nervous system

Elly M. Tanaka & Patrizia Ferretti

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 713-723 (2009)

What allows some species, but not others, to regenerate their nervous system? In this Review, the authors compare CNS regeneration among vertebrates looking for clues that might explain how this ability might have emerged or been restricted through evolution.

Evolution of the neocortex: a perspective from developmental biology

Pasko Rakic

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 724-735 (2009)

Focusing on mammalian species, Pasko Rakic uses evo–devo studies to model how gene mutations may have affected neuron number and neuronal migration, which in turn may have contributed to the species-specific expansion and elaboration of the cerebral cortex.

Chordate roots of the vertebrate nervous system: expanding the molecular toolkit

Linda Z. Holland

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 736-746 (2009)

By comparing developmental gene expression and neuroanatomy of vertebrates and the basal chordate amphioxus, Linda Holland sheds light on the molecular changes that may have facilitated the evolution of the vertebrate brain.

HT: Evolving Thoughts