Neurons and their connections provide the substrate for cognitive functions. The total number of neurons, the basic computational units of the nervous system, and the total number of synapses, the basic building blocks of memory traces, determine the brain's computational capacity, which is a prerequisite and limiting factor for intelligence. Due to the employment of the isotropic fractionator method, it has become technically feasible to determine the numbers and densities of neurons and non-neuronal cells in whole brains and their parts across hundreds of species representing diverse vertebrate clades. In contrast, accurate data on the number of synapses needed to assess neuronal connectivity are unavailable. In this project, we will utilize expansion microscopy in combination with light sheet fluorescence microscopy and super-resolution imaging (structured illumination microscopy) to assess the total numbers, densities, and distributions of excitatory and inhibitory synapses in the pallium of selected model vertebrates. The resulting unique dataset will allow a comparison of the average computing power of individual neurons between distantly related species and closely related species that differ in brain and body size.

Five relevant publications of the research group:

Sol D, Olkowicz S, Sayol F, Kocourek M, Zhang Y, Marhounová L, Osadnik C, Corssmit E, Garcia-Porta J, Martin T E, Lefebvre L, & Němec P (2022). Neuron numbers link innovativeness with both absolute and relative brain size in birds. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 6, 1381– 1389.

Kverková K, Marhounová L, Polonyiová L, Kocourek M, Zhang Y, Olkowicz S, Straková B, Pavelková Z, Vodička R, Frynta D, Němec P. (2022) The evolution of brain neuron numbers in amniotes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 119 (11), e2121624119.

Němec P., Osten P. (2020) The evolution of brain structure captured in stereotyped cell count and cell type distributions. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 60: 176–183.

Marhounová, L., Kotrschal, A., Kverková, K., Kolm, N., Němec, P. (2019) Artificial selection on brain size leads to matching changes in overall number of neurons. Evolution 73, 2003–2012 (IF (ISIÒ) = 3.572).

Olkowicz, S., Kocourek, M., Lučan, R. K., Porteš, M., Fitch, W. T., Herculano-Houzel, S. and Němec, P. (2016) Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 113: 7255–7260.

Deadline is closed

Don’t hesitate, submit an application now!

Choose your specialization