The Ancestry of Reason – updates

Relevant or particularly interesting stuff published since the book went to press, and odd thoughts that have occurred to the author since then.


Curr. Biol.   Current Biology

J. Comp. Neurol.  Journal of Comparative Neuroscience

Nat. Neurosci.   Nature Neuroscience

Nat. Rev. Neurosci.   Nature Reviews: Neuroscience

PNAS   Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

TICS   Trends in Cognitive Sciences

TINS   Trends in Neurosciences


Chapter 4:  From Earliest Animals to Homo Sapiens – a Quick Sketch

A. S. Brooks et al.   Long-distance stone transport and pigment use in the earliest Middle Stone Age  Science  Vol. 360 p.90  6 April 2018

R. L. Holloway et al.   Endocast morphology of Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa   PNAS  Vol. 115  p.5738  29 May 2018  (Clues about the brain of a small hominid discovered fairly recently.)

E. Pennisi   The power of many   Science Vol. 360 p.1388  29 June 2018  (The transition to multicellularity may have been less complicated, and occurred more often, than once thought.)

H. Pontzer   Economy and Endurance in Human Evolution   Curr. Biol.  Vol. 27 R613  19 June 2017

M. Sahnouni et al.   1.9-million and 2.4-million-year-old artifacts and stone tool-cutmarked bones from Ain Boucherit, Algeria   Science  Vol. 362 p.1297  14 December 2018

J. Sokol   Cracking the Cambrian  Science Vol. Vol. 362 p.880  23 November 2018   (Recent fossil discoveries from this early period.)

P. S. Ungar   Evolution’s Bite: A Story of Teeth, Diet and Human Origins  Princeton University Press 2017

Chapter 5:  An Introduction to Neurons and Nervous Systems

J. M. Martin-Duran et al.   Convergent evolution of bilaterian nerve cords   Nature  Vol. 553  p.45  4 January 2018

Chapter 6:  The Basic Mechanisms of Vision

M. Weigand et al   Universal transition from unstructured to structured neural maps  PNAS  Vol. 114 E4057  16 May 2017   (In carnivores and ungulates but not in rats neurons with similar orientation preferences cluster together in primary visual cortex, as in primates.)

A recent thought:  it occurs to me that the magnificent array of colours we experience, produced by comparing the inputs of just three wavelength-sensitive types of photoreceptor and one with a wider range, is a particularly telling example of what consciousness achieves.  Some invertebrates have a noticeably greater variety of colour-sensitive receptors – dragonflies,  for instance, and mantis shrimps.   At least one variety of the latter has twelve (plus some extraocular ones).  But the shrimps cannot learn to distinguish among blends of input from different types.  (H. H. Thoen et al.  A Different Form of Color Vision in Mantis Shrimp  – Science Vol. 343 p.411 24 January 2014)  It seems likely, therefore, that colour signals here serve only to govern hardwired responses – for which consciousness would be a  superfluous luxury.  Extending the experiments to some vertebrates – those brightly patterned reef fish, for example – might be interesting.

Chapter 8:  Creating the Conscious Visual Moment

M. Boi et al.   Consequences of the Oculomotor Cycle for the Dynamics of Perception  Curr. Biol. Vol. 27 p.1268  8 May 2017  (Michele Rucci and his team continue to explore how the eye’s constant drifts and microsaccades promote efficient interpretation of visual input.)

S. L. Brincat et al.  Gradual progression from sensory to task-related processing in cerebral cortex  PNAS Vol. 115 E7202  24 July 2018

B. van Vugt et al.   The threshold for conscious report: Signal loss and response bias in visual and frontal cortex  Science Vol. 360 p.537  4 May 2018 

Chapter 13:  Social Lifestyles

I. G. Kulahci et al.   Knowledgeable Lemurs Become More Central in Social Networks  Curr. Biol.  Vol. 28 p.1306  23 April 2013  (Even among lemurs useful knowledge brings kudos.)

Chapter 14:  Attention

K. J. P. Woods & J. H. McDermott   Schema learning for the cocktail party problem  PNAS  Vol. 115 E3313  3 April 2018

Chapter 15:  The Neurology of Movement

V. Caggiano et al.   Midbrain circuits that set locomotor speed and gait selection   Nature  Vol. 553 p.455  25 January 2018   (This and the paper by Capelli, below, demonstrate that different locomotor centres do indeed govern slightly different forms of locomotion, tho’ not quite in the way I guessed – and that there are probably more than two such centres.)

P. Capelli et al.   Locomotor speed control circuits in the caudal brainstem  Nature  Vol. 551 p.373  16 November 2017

M. N. Economo et al.   Distinct descending motor cortex pathways and their roles in movement   Nature Vol. 563 p.79  1 November 2018 

Z. Gao et al.  A cortico-cerebellar loop for motor planning  Nature Vol. 563 p.113  1 November 2018

T. Takei et al.  Neural basis for hand muscle synergies in the primate spinal cord  PNAS Vol. 114 p.8643  8 August 2017   (Some insight into how old and new spinal pathways work together.)

Chapter 16:  The Neurology of Attention

D. A. Christakis et al.   How early media exposure may affect cognitive function: A review of results from observations in humans and experiments in mice  PNAS Vol. 115 p.9851  2 October 2018

T. van Kerkoerle et al.   Layer-specificity in the effects of attention and working memory on activity in primary visual cortex   Nature Communications  10.1038.ncomms/3804  2017    (Clarifies the way bottom-up and top-down signals are co-ordinated.)

M. R. Uncapher & A. D. Wagner   Minds and brains of media multitaskers: Current findings and future directions  PNAS Vol. 115 p.9889  2October 2018

K. Chang et al.  Novelty, Salience, and Surprise Timing Are Signaled by Neurons in the Basal Forebrain  Curr. Biol. Vol. 29 p.134  7 January 2019  (Some useful new evidence about an area that is important in attention, but not yet well understood.)

V. Naimoli et al.  The Role of Acetylcholine in Attention in Turtles (Chrysemys picta)  Brain, Behavior and Evolution  Vol. 92 p.71 January 2019   (This work suggests that the basal forebrain is important for concentrating attention on relevant factors.)

Chapter 17:  The Neurology of Reward

A. Bendensky et al.   The genetic basis of parental care evolution in monogamous mice   Nature  Vol. 544  p.434  27 April 2017

D. Hoops & C. Flores   Making Dopamine Connections in Adolescence   TINs  Vol. 40 p.709  December 2017   (A reason why taking addictive drugs in adolescence is a particularly bad idea.)

J. LeDoux & R. Brown   A higher-order theory of emotional consciousness  PNAS  Vol. 114  E2016  3 August 2017

N. Marsh et al.  Oxytocin-enforced norm compliance reduces xenophobic outgroup rejection  PNAS Vol. 114 p.9314  29 August 2017

Chapter 18:  Learning

A. J. Peters et al.  Reorganization of corticospinal output during motor learning  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 20 p.113 August 2017

B. T. Saunders et al.  Dopamine neurons create Pavlovian conditioned stimuli with circuit-defined motivational properties  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 21 p.1072  2018

Chapter 19:  Contextual and Episodic Memory

A. S. Alexander & D. A. Nitz   Specifically periodic activation patterns of retrosplenial cortex encode route sub-spaces and distance travelled  Curr. Biol.  Vol. 27  p.1551  2017

A. Banino et al.   Vector-based navigation using grid-like representations in artificial agents   Nature Vol. 557 p.429  17 May 2018   (A computer network mastered the art of navigation around a modest arena.)

G. R. I. Barker et al.   Separate elements of episodic memory subserved by distinct hippocampal-prefrontal connections  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 20  p.242  February 2017

M. G. Campbell et al.  Principles governing the integration of landmark and self-motion cues in entorhinal cortical codes for navigation  Nat. Neurosci. Vol. 21 p.1096  2018

X. Chen et al.  Flexible egocentric and allocentric representations of heading signals in parietal cortex  PNAS  Vol. 115 E3305  3 April 2018

C. E. Connor & J. J. Knierim   Integration of objects and space in perception and memory  Nat. Neurosci. Vol. 20 p.1493  November 2017  (One of several articles in a special issue focussed on spatial cognition.)

A. Kereszies et al.   Hippocampal maturity promotes memory distinctiveness in childhood and adolescence  PNAS Vol. 114 p.9212  22 August 2017

M. Nau et al.   How the Brain’s Navigation System Shapes Our Visual Experience  TICS Vol. 22 p.810  September 2018

V. Santangelo et al.  Enhanced brain activity associated with memory access in highly superior autobiographical memory  PNAS Vol. 115 p.7795  24 July 2018  (Exceptionally detailed recollection of autobiographical memories correlates with strong activity in medial prefrontal cortex and strong connectivity between prefrontal and hippocampus.)

K. Z. Tanaka et al.   The hippocampal engram maps experience but not place  Science  Vol. 361 p.392  27 July 2018   (Neuroscientists often argue for either/or answers to questions that can happily accommodate both possibilities.)

Chapter 20:  Sleep, Dreams and Memory

R. C. Anafi et al.    Exploring phylogeny to find the function of sleep  Nat. Rev. Neurosci.  Vol. 20 p.109 January 2019    (Sleep turns out to be more widespread than thought.  This paper gives an overview of sleep across various species, and supports the idea that it serves metabolic functions.)

K. Liu et al.   Lhx6-positive GABA-releasing neurons of the zona incerta promote sleep   Nature  Vol. 548  p.582  31 August 2017   (The zona incerta gets a little less mysterious.)

K. M. Swift et al.  Abnormal Locus Coeruleus Sleep Activity Alters Sleep Signatures of Memory Consolidation and Impairs Place Cell Stability and Spatial Memory  Curr. Biol.  Vol. 28 p.3599  19 November 2018   (Neuronal activity associated with attention in waking life interferes with memory consolidation during sleep.)

Chapter 21:  The Long-term Memory Store

M.J. Arcaro et al.   Seeing faces is necessary for face-domain formation  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 20 p.1404  October 2017   (Or perhaps that should be experiencing faces – see van den Hurk et al. below.)

L. Chang & D. Y. Tsao   The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain  Cell  Vol. 169 p.1013  1 June 2017

S. M. Landi & W. A. Freiwald   Two areas for familiar face recognition in the primate brain   Science  Vol. 357  p.591  11 August 2017  (Two additional face-sensitive areas have been found in the temporal cortex of rhesus monkeys.  One seems particularly important for registering familiar faces.)

N. A. R. Murty & S. P. Arun   Multiplicative mixing of object identity and image attributes in single inferior temporal neurons   PNAS Vol. 115 E3276  3 April 2018

J. van den Hurk et al.   Development of visual category selectivity in ventral visual cortex does not require visual experience  PNAS Vol. 114 E4501  30 May 2017   (Faces, bodies and landmarks are filed in much the same temporal areas in those born blind as in the sighted, confirming that it’s not the sensory channel through which data is obtained that determines how  information is stored.)

Y. Wang et al.  Dynamic neural architecture for social knowledge retrieval  PNAS Vol. 114  E3305  18 April 2017   (An area in anterior temporal cortex knits together appearance, name and other aspects of an individual.)

Chapter 22:  Where the Thinking’s Done

A. Ghazizadeh et al.   Temporal-prefrontal cortical network for discrimination of valuable objects in long-term memory   PNAS Vol. 115 E 2135  27 February 2018

F. A. Mansouri et al.   Managing competing signals –  key role for the frontopolar cortex   Nat. Rev. Neurosci. Vol. 18 p.645 November 2017

Chapter 23:  More About the Basal Ganglia

J. N.Constantino   Infant viewing of social scenes is under genetic control and is atypical in autism  Nature  Vol. 547 p.340  20 July 2017

A. Hahamy et al.  Representations of multiple body parts in the missing hand territory of congenital one-handers  Curr. Biol.  Vol. 27 p.1350  8 May 2017  (Evidence that the layout of motor cortex can be influenced by the purpose of actions.)

L. J. Powell et al.   Social Origins of Cortical Face Areas  TICS Vol. 22 p.752 September 2018   (Another likely hypothesis about how cortical schema areas  come about.)

Chapter 24:  Some Guesswork About the Thalamus

(Information about this area is beginning to increase quite rapidly.)

L. Acsady   The Thalamic Paradox   Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 20 p.901  July 2017  (A valuable update.)

S. S. Bolkan et al.  Thalamic projections sustain prefrontal activity during working memory performance  Nat. Neurosci. Vol. 20 p.987  July 2017

M. M. Hakassa & S. Kastner  Thalamic functions in distributed cognitive control  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 20 p.1669  December 2017

I-C Mundinano et al.  Transient visual pathway critical for normal development of primate grasping behavior   PNAS Vol. 115 p.1364  6 February 2018

G. Pergola et al.  The Regulatory Role of the Human Mediodorsal Thalamus  TICS  Vol. 22 p.1011 November 2018

S. Ren et al.   The paraventricular thalamus is a critical thalamic area for wakefulness   Science  Vol. 362 p.429  26 October 2018

R. P. Vertes et al.    Limbic Circuitry of the midline thalamus   Neuroscience and Biobehavi0ral Reviews  Vol. 54  p.89  July 2015

Y. Zhu et al.   Dynamic salience processing in paraventricular thalamus gates associative learning   Science  Vol. 362  p.423  26 October 2018

Chapter 26:   Some Pivotal Innovations

E. Boldog et al.   Transcriptomic and morphological evidence for a specialized human cortical GABAergic cell type  Nat. Neurosci.  Vol. 21 p.1185  August 2018

J. A. Cardin   Inhibitory Interneurons Regulate Temporal Precision and Correlations in Cortical Circuits  TINS Vol.41 p.689  October 2018

L. A. Drayton et al.   Psychopaths fail to automatically take the perspective of others  PNAS Vol. 115 p.3302 27 March 2018   (Psychopaths are not incapable of considering the welfare of others but don’t do it automatically – which suggests a deficiency of emotional mirror neurons.)

M. E. Horn & R. A. Nicoll   Somatostatin and parvalbumin inhibitory synapses onto hippocampal pyramidal cells are regulated by distinct mechanisms.  PNAS Vol. 115 p.589 9 January 2018  (An example of the increasing number of distinctions between inhibitory neurons that are emerging.)

G. Mongillo et al.   Inhibitory connectivity defines the realm of excitatory plasticity   Nature Neuroscience Vol. 211 p.1463 October 2018   (More evidence of the vital role inhibitory neurons play in shaping neocortical circuitry.)

R. Rubin et al.   Balanced excitation and inhibition are required for high-capacity, noise-robust neuronal selectivity  PNAS Vol.114 E9366 31 October 2017

Chapter 27:  A Tentative History of Consciousness

K. C. Bittner et al.  Behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity underlies CA1 place fields  Science Vol. 357 p.1033  8 September 2017  (A form of synaptic modification which requires less delicate timing than usual, and seems appropriate to learning about places.)

S. D. Briscoe et al.  Neocortical Association Cell Types in the Forebrain of Birds and Alligators  Curr. Biol. Vol. 28 p.686 5 March 2018   (As suspected, the forebrains of birds and reptiles are  just differently structured, not completely different.)

D. C. Dennett   From Bacteria to Bach and Back  W. W. Norton & Co. 2017   (The philosopher’s latest thoughts on consciousness.  Includes some stimulating ideas about Dawkin’s ‘memes’ – of which languages, Dennett points out, are an outstanding example.   I was prompted to reflect that memes must depend on mirror neurons, and how valuable mirror neurons are in species where behaviour is not entirely dictated by the genetic plan for neurons and muscles, providing a speedy, non-genetic way of benefitting from the experience of previous generations.)

C. D. Frith & P. Haggard   Volition and the Brain – Revisiting a Classic Experimental Study  TINS Vol.41 p.405 July 2018

M. S. Gazzaniga   The Consciousness Instinct: Unravelling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind  Farrar, Straus & Giroux  2018

C. Koch   What is Consciousness?   Nature  Vol. 557  S9  10 May 2018

A. Sotiras et al.   Patterns of coordinated cortical remodeling during adolescence and their associations with functional specialization and evolutionary expansion  PNAS Vol. 114 p.3527  28 March 2017

M. A. Tosches et al.   Evolution of pallium, hippocampus and cortical cell types revealed by single-cell transcriptomics in reptiles  Science  Vol. 360 p.881  25 May 2018  (Comparing gene expression in turtle, lizard and mouse the authors confirm that an equivalent of the hippocampus forms a large part of the reptilian forebrain.   They also find that glutamatergic (excitatory) neurons seem to have diversified in mammals, as compared to reptiles, more than GABA (inhibitory) ones.)

Q. Wang et al.   Organization of the connections between claustrum and cortex in the mouse   J. Comp. Neurol.  Vol. 525(6)  p.1317  16 February 2017  (Christof Koch has long believed the thin sheet of cells extending under the neocortex is important to consciousness, and has now found a way of mapping these well-hidden neurons.)

Chapter 28:  Language

J. Z. Abramson et al.   Imitation of novel conspecific and human speech sounds in the killer whale (Orcinus orca)   Proceedings of the Royal Society B  Vol. 285 31 January 2018

X. Si et al.  Cooperative cortical network for categorical processing of Chinese lexical tone  PNAS Vol. 114 p.12303  14 November 2017

Chapter 29:  The Evolution of Language

M. G. Newberry et al.  Detecting evolutionary forces in language change  Nature Vol. 551 p.223  9 November 2017

Chapter 30:  Endword

G. Atlam et al.  The Claustrum Supports Resilience to Distraction  Curr. Biol. Vol. 28 p.2752  10 September 2018

L. Barkovitch et al.  Disruption of Conscious Access in Schizophrenia  TINs Vol. 21 p.878  November 2017

R. R. Darby et al.   Lesion network localization of free will   PNAS  Vol. 115 p.10792  16 October 2018

M. Diana et al.  Rehabilitating the addicted brain with transcranial magnetic stimulation  Nat. Rev. Neurosci. Vol.18 p.685  November 2017

R. Gruber et al.   New Caledonian Crows Use Mental Representations to Solve Metatool Problems   Current Biology  Vol. 29 p.686  18 February 2019  (Cunning experiments showed that these birds can plan several moves ahead when using tools, remembering hidden factors.)

H. Maruoka et al.  Lattice system of functionally distinct cell types in the neocortex  Science Vol.  358 p.610 3 November 2017    (Interesting insight on neocortical organisation.)
C. Mayer et al.  Developmental diversifcation of cortical inhibitory interneurons  Nature Vol. 555 p.457  22 March 2018

S. Qi et al.  How cognitive and reactive fear circuits optimize escape decisions in humans   PNAS Vol. 115  p.3186  20 March 2018

H. Shen  Portrait of a memory  Nature Vol. 553 p.146 11 January 2018

B. Tasic et al.  Shared and distinct transcriptomic cell types across neocortical areas  Nature Vol. 563 p.72  1 November 2018  (A study of cell types in primary visual cortex and part of motor cortex in mice.   Excitatory glutamate-deploying neurons differ noticeably more between the two areas than inhibitory GABA ones do.)