From stem cells to comparative corticogenesis: a bridge too far?
It has been hypothesized that the higher number of neurons in human cortex compared to the chimpanzee and other primate species is key to high cognitive function. Are human cortical precursors endowed with specific properties that drive greater neuronal expansion than in other non-human primates? Otani et al. 2016 addressed this issue taking advantage of comparative in vitro corticogenesis models based on human, chimpanzee and macaque pluripotent stem cells. Clonal analysis revealed a heterochrony of early developmental events possibly leading to a relatively higher expansion of human cortical precursor population. In absence of evidence going beyond putative correlation, the claim that stem cell models of cortical development indicate mechanism of cortical size regulation needs to be further examined notably with respect to in vivo observations of cortical precursor lineages.