Evolution of the nervous system.

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

4 thoughts on “Evolution of the nervous system.

  1. Recently, I did research on the Miller – Urey Experiment. For Miller, a 23 year old graduate student, it was a nice piece of work. His paper that appeared in Nature in 1953 was unpretentious with the innocuous title – A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions. It certainly helped that his dissertation advisor was Harold Urey.

    Unfortunately, a closer look at the experiment show it to be flawed at every step in the procedure.

    1. Earth Conditions – a reduced environment with the inclusion of methane and ammonia almost guarantees you are going to get amino acids in a controlled environment. The more remarkable part of the earth conditions is that it included water.

    2. Continuous electrical discharge – unrealistic

    3. Only seven days? Hey why stop after seven days if you were about to create life in a test tube? I suspect that longer periods of time were tried but because of the fragile nature of amino acids proved to be detrimental.

    4. Creating amino acids, which follow chemical laws, under controlled conditions is child’s play compared to creating a protein.

    To my knowledge there is no ongoing research in this area after several other unspectacular tries.

    To any knowing entity the Miller-Urey Experiment is now just an interesting historical artifact and yet it continues to be ubiquitous cited as an authoritative source of support for abiogensis.

    I am not that conversant with the literature but as an example – Brooks, Fresco, Lesk, and Singh – Evolution of Amino Acids Frequencies in Proteins Over Deep Time : Inferred Order of Introduction of Amino Acids into the Genetic Code – Molecular Biology and Evolution – 2002 – cites Miller (1953).

    Miller – Urey, because of environmental changes, has become obsolete. It is a gene that should be deleted but continues to be passed on in the DNA of the literature.

    This reluctance to admit error is causing a problem. The chain of thought is that Miller – Urey is wrong – Evolution is wrong. I even saw the stronger case – Miller – Urey is wrong – Evolution is wrong – the Bible is right.

    I am now reviewing the concept of random mutation and having problems making it consistently work. (Can you provide some guidance of how the concept of variety morphed into random mutation?) Within this general inquiry I am doing some review on the concept of non coding DNA. At first I could not understand why evolutionists would be opposed to finding that at least part of the non coding DNA has some function? Now I understand that evolutionists view non coding DNA as evidence that change is random, the non coding DNA being the remains of mistakes.

    (What does the linear distribution along the genome look like for non coding DNA? Is it like coding, non coding, coding? Or is it more like coding, coding, non coding, non coding? )

    The rigidity of evolutionists to at least concede that there may be some functionality to non coding DNA is going to be a very big mistake, another Miller – Urey. Additional functions are going to be found. I realize that within the evolutionists camp there is an entire spectrum of beliefs. However, the main signal being received by others is that evolutionists believe non coding DNA is junk.

    Evolutionists believe that non coding DNA is junk – Functions found for non coding DNA – Evolutionist wrong – the Bible is right.

    I had an interesting thought about evolutionists. There problem is that while the creation of life is complex, to them it does not appear complex enough for intelligent design. There are only 4 DNA base pairs. There are only 22 amino acids that code for protein. Humans have only seriously been working on The Origins of Life for about 150 years and in a very non random fashion have come a long way.

    Life is good,


  2. Congratulations on posting some of the most idiotic and disingenuous tripe that I've ever seen. It's unlikely that you'll ever return to check other people's responses to your spam, but just for the hell of it:

    1. No one gives a rat's arse about Miller-Urey. It carries incredible historical significance, but it does not form the basis of any modern origin of life theories.

    2. No one is opposed to finding function in "junk DNA". Ohno himself supposed that it might have some adaptive purpose. Much of what is currently considered "junk" could very well turn out to be adaptive. That would have zero impact on the validity of evolutionary theory. At the same time, if you want convincing evidence that much of the genome does is in fact "junk", feel free to visit Larry Moran's website.

    3) The problem is not that life "does not appear complex enough for intelligent design". The problem is that intelligent design is thinly veiled pseudoscientific babble comprised entirely of debunked theoretical ideas, lacking any evidence whatsoever, and promoted by religious charlatans who are more than happy to defraud the uneducated.

  3. I just got an email invite from the Conservative club that Gary Goodyear will be on campus on Wednesday. If you or any other scientist are concerned with the state of science funding, this would be the chance to ask him that directly.


    Wednesday, September 23, 2009
    10:30am – 11:30am
    MACK 314

    "Ever wonder what the Canadian Government is doing for you? Well here’s your chance to find out! Gary Goodyear is the Minister of Science and Technology and he is coming to the University of Guelph!

    Minister Goodyear will explain what the Canadian government is doing for students, science, technology, education, the economy, and how YOU can benefit!

    Here's a little bit about Minister Goodyear:

    Gary Goodyear was elected MP for Cambridge in 2004, and in 2008 was appointed the Minister of State for Science and Technology.

    He studied biomechanics and psychology at Waterloo, and was valedictorian and class President at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, where he later taught. From 1986-1996 he was the health columnist with the Cambridge Times.

    Minister Goodyear was endorsed by the Canadian Islamic Congress in the 2006 election, and was also awarded the "Spirit of Armenia" Award by the Canadian Armenian Community in May 2008. He is also the Chairman of the Canada-Armenian Interparliamentary Friendship group in Ottawa."

  4. Anonymous,

    I do apologize for my long winded prior post.

    1. My point about Miller-Urey is that while to any knowng individual it is only of historical interest it is still being quoted in text books and in peer reviewed literature supporting evolutionary theory. This gives intelligent design some low hanging fruit. They point to the reference. They easily reveal the flaws. And then they use a logic that is flaunted on both sides of the argument, if one thing is wrong everything is wrong. Miller-Urey is part of the DNA of the corpus of evolutionary theory that should be deleted but has not.

    2. The message reaching those on the outside is that evolutionist state that non-coding DNA is junk. And just as you use the term “no one” freely, the evolutionists freely use “all”. Then as more research comes forward finding function for some of this puzzling stuff we have another low hanging fruit scenario.

    3. “The problem is that intelligent design is thinly veiled pseudoscientific babble comprised entirely of debunked theoretical ideas, lacking any evidence whatsoever, and promoted by religious charlatans who are more than happy to defraud the uneducated.” I agree that in the past this was case for the then “creationist” camp. This was low hanging fruit for evolutionary theorists. However, today, there are a few, and this number is growing, members of the intelligent design camp who are well trained scientists who are suggesting that some evolutionary advocates have been a little free with the data.

    And now for a little fun. To bad your response is under the moniker Anonymous. Regardless, I am going to use it in my lecture series anyway. Uneducated – “that intelligent design is thinly veiled pseudoscientific babble – comprised entirely of debunked theoretical ideas – lacking any evidence whatsoever – religious charlatans – uneducated” – and all this academic rigor in just one sentence. Your parents must be very proud.

    Call it – heads or tails,


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