High-expanding regions in primate cortical brain evolution support supramodal cognitive flexibility

Markus H. Sneve, Håkon Grydeland, Marcello G.P. Rosa, Tomáš Paus, Tristan Chaplin, Kristine Walhovd, Anders M. Fjell

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Primate cortical evolution has been characterized by massive and disproportionate expansion of a set of specific regions in the neocortex. The associated increase in neocortical neurons comes with a high metabolic cost, thus the functions served by these regions must have conferred significant evolutionary advantage. In the present series of analyses, we show that evolutionary high-expanding cortex – as estimated from patterns of surface growth from several primate species – shares functional connections with different brain networks in a context-dependent manner. Specifically, we demonstrate that high-expanding cortex is characterized by high internetwork functional connectivity; is recruited flexibly over many different cognitive tasks; and changes its functional coupling pattern between rest and a multimodal task-state. The capacity of high-expanding cortex to connect flexibly with various specialized brain networks depending on particular cognitive requirements suggests that its selective growth and sustainment in evolution may have been linked to an involvement in supramodal cognition. In accordance with an evolutionary-developmental view, we find that this observed ability of high-expanding regions – to flexibly modulate functional connections as a function of cognitive state – emerges gradually through childhood, with a prolonged developmental trajectory plateauing in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3891-3901
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • Cerebral cortex
  • Functional connectivity
  • Human brain evolution
  • Human development
  • Multimodal integration

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