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This Is What Makes Primates Different From Non-Primates

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There’s a Strange Difference Between Primates And Non-Primates, new research reveals.

Scientists have found a key difference in the structure of the cortical neurons of primates and other animals’ brains. Now, they are trying to figure out what kind of evolutionary advantage dendrites that carry axons might give to a species.

The axon fiber, a slender portion of the neuron that transmits electrical impulses, distinguishes some species’ neurons from those of others. Axons were previously thought to only grow outside the cell body, but a new study demonstrates that they can also grow from dendrites, the extensions that connect nerve cells to one another.

According to Science Alert, these axon-carrying dendrites are significantly more abundant in non-primate animals like cats and pigs than they are in primates.

More than 34,000 neurons from rodents, pigs, cats, ferrets, macaque monkeys, and humans were studied using archived tissue and samples.

“A unique aspect of the project is that the team worked with archived tissue and slide preparations, which included material that has been used for years to teach students,” explains Ruhr University Bochum neurobiologist Petra Wahle.

Furthermore, because pigs and wild boars have equal proportions, the researchers concluded that animal domestication has no effect on the number of these axon-carrying dendrites. Several animals, on the other hand, appear to be born with them rather than developing them over time.

Neurons frequently function as police officers when selecting which signals should be relayed and which should not, based on other inputs they receive. Axon-carrying dendrites appear to have the ability to circumvent this process and choose which messages are carried around the brain network independently.

“Our findings extend current knowledge about the distribution and proportion of axon-bearing dendrite cells in the neocortex of non-primate taxa, which differ markedly from primates, where these cells are found primarily in deeper layers and white matter,” the authors of the study wrote in eLife.

There is no doubt that more research will be needed to figure out why some species have more dendrites that carry axons than others and what evolutionary advantage they might have for the animals that use them.

Image Credit: Getty

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