Deep Homology of Arthropod Central Complex and Vertebrate Basal Ganglia

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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 157-161
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231828

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Of Flies and Men

Similarities of brain structure, function, and behavior are usually ascribed to convergent evolution. In their review, Strausfeld and Hirth (p. 157) identify multiple commonalities shared by vertebrate basal ganglia and a system of forebrain centers in arthropods called the central complex. The authors conclude that circuits essential to behavioral choice originated very early across phyla.


The arthropod central complex and vertebrate basal ganglia derive from embryonic basal forebrain lineages that are specified by an evolutionarily conserved genetic program leading to interconnected neuropils and nuclei that populate the midline of the forebrain-midbrain boundary region. In the substructures of both the central complex and basal ganglia, network connectivity and neuronal activity mediate control mechanisms in which inhibitory (GABAergic) and modulatory (dopaminergic) circuits facilitate the regulation and release of adaptive behaviors. Both basal ganglia and central complex dysfunction result in behavioral defects including motor abnormalities, impaired memory formation, attention deficits, affective disorders, and sleep disturbances. The observed multitude of similarities suggests deep homology of arthropod central complex and vertebrate basal ganglia circuitries underlying the selection and maintenance of behavioral actions.

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