Major transitions in cortical circuit evolution


Fred Wolf  | Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, and University of Göttingen, Germany
Agostina Palmigiano | Columbia University, USA


Neuronal circuits of the cerebral cortex underlie our abilities to perceive and recognize objects, form an internal model of dynamic environments, make decisions and plan and execute complex actions. Although these functions and abilities appear universal, the design even of simple sensory cortical circuits, surprisingly, was repeatedly disrupted by major evolutionary transformations. Recent work has uncovered that the ancestral state of primary visual cortex neither exhibited localized receptive fields nor retinotopic order (1) and that mammalian V1 underwent an all-or-nothing transition at the origin of primates (2). Exciting discoveries in the paleontology and paleobiology of the mammalian brain indicate that cortical circuit evolution has been punctuated by coordinated encephalization bursts (3) in distinct lineages, potentially reflecting key innovations in visual processing strategy (4). The challenge of understanding and reconstructing such transitions adds a novel dimension to the quest of decoding the principles of cortical processing and design.

The workshop “Major transitions in cortical circuit evolution” will bring together leading researchers that pioneered next-generation comparative studies, use predictive and data-driven modelling to identify mode-shifts in visual cortical processing and reconstruct the evolutionary trajectory of cortical evolution. Our workshop is designed to make recent advances and open challenges accessible to a wide audience in computational and systems neuroscience and foster a new wave of theoretical and comparative work in cortical circuit evolution.

(1) Fournier et al. Neuron 2018, (2) Schmidt & Wolf Curr Opinion Neurobiol 2021, (3) Bertrand et al Science 2022, (4) Luongo et al. eLife

Schedule (CEST)

Tuesday, Sept 13


Opening remarks


Ornella Bertrand | University of Edinburgh, UK
Encephalization burst in mammalian brain evolution


Mark Shein-Idelson| Tel Aviv University, Israel
A reptile’s view on the evolution of brain states


Discussion round I
Do we need a deep history of deep networks?


Kerstin Schmidt | Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
Clustering and disorder in the visual cortex of a very large rodent


David Hansel | Université de Paris
Theory of feature selectivity in mouse primary visual cortex


30 min break


Madineh Sedigh-Sarvestani | Max Planck Florida Institute, USA
Novel topographic patterns in tree shrew visual cortex


Agostina Palmigiano | Columbia University, USA
Probing rodent – primate circuit divergence by perturbation-assisted model inference


Discussion round II
Rodent V1: universal processor or living fossil?


End of first day

Wednesday, Sept 14


Fred Wolf | Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, and University of Göttingen, Germany
One or many origins of the functional cortical column?


Michael Ibbotson | University of Melbourne, Australia
Origins of marsupial V1 functional architecture


Jonas Rose | University of Bochum, Germany
Neural fingerprints of avian cognition


Fabian Sinz | University of Göttingen, Germany
Interspecies comparison of ventral-stream-type processing


Discussion round III
Convergence vs. conservation in visual forebrain proccessing


30 min break


Suzana Herculano-Houzel | Vanderbilt University, USA
Physical and biological constraints and degrees of freedom in cortical evolution


Discussion round IV
Principles and challenges in cortical cicuit evolution