Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain : bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning
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Comparative animal studies of complex behavioural traits, and their neurobiological underpinnings, can increase our understanding of their evolution, including in humans. Vocal learning, a potential precursor to human speech, is one such trait. Mammalian vocal learning is under-studied: most research has either focused on vocal learning in songbirds or its absence in non-human primates. Here, we focus on a highly promising model species for the neurobiology of vocal learning: grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). We provide a neuroanatomical atlas (based on dissected brain slices and magnetic resonance images), a labelled MRI template, a three-dimensional model with volumetric measurements of brain regions, and histological cortical stainings. Four main features of the grey seal brain stand out: (i) it is relatively big and highly convoluted; (ii) it hosts a relatively large temporal lobe and cerebellum; (iii) the cortex is similar to that of humans in thickness and shows the expected six-layered mammalian structure; (iv) there is expression of FoxP2 present in deeper layers of the cortex; FoxP2 is a gene involved in motor learning, vocal learning, and spoken language. Our results could facilitate future studies targeting the neural and genetic underpinnings of mammalian vocal learning, thus bridging the research gap from songbirds to humans and non-human primates. Our findings are relevant not only to vocal learning research but also to the study of mammalian neurobiology and cognition more in general.
Hoeksema , N , Verga , L , Mengede , J , van Roessel , C , Villanueva , S , Salazar-Casals , A , Rubio-Garcia , A , Ćurčić-Blake , B , Vernes , S C & Ravignani , A 2021 , ' Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain : bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning ' , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , vol. 376 , no. 1836 , 20200252 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0252
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0252.
DescriptionN.H. is supported by funding from an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for language sciences fellowship grant, and the work of N.H. and S.C.V. was supported by a Max Planck Research Group (MPRG) awarded to S.C.V. The work of L.V. and A.R. was supported by a Max Planck Research Group (MPRG) awarded to A.R. S.C.V. was also supported by a Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) Research grant (grant no. RGP0058/2016) and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (grant no. MR/T021985/1).
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