Feeds

Intelligence a genetic mistake

Badly copied genome boosted brains, kinda

Build a business case: developing custom apps

It’s not quite the “key to intelligence”, but a study published in the journal Cell at least offers a hint to how human brains changed post-hominid: a miscopied gene that seems to let the brain form more connections, faster.

The paper finds that a gene dubbed SRGAP2 has, during cell divisions, been incompletely copied three times in human evolution: once around 3.4 million years ago, and again 2.4 and 1 million years ago.

The gene in question is associated with cortical development. As noted in Christian Science Monitor, duplications are an important evolutionary mechanism, acting as a kind of “sandbox” in which mutations can occur without harming an organism.

In this case, the scientists have a parallel study on which they’ve based the gene duplication / brain hypothesis. Testing one of the partial duplications, SRGAP2C, in mice, they have found two interesting developments.

The first effect they observed is that during development, the brain cells of the SRGAP2C-treated mice migrate more readily, which might provide better organization. The second effect is that the mouse brain cells showed “the emergence of human-specific features” – including the development of “spines” on the cells, which provide connection to other cells.

In other words, while the research hasn’t demonstrated that the duplicated gene leads to smarter mice (or, necessarily, to smarter humans), the studies do associate the genes with some of the things that make the modern human brain work better than Australopithecus.

The researchers also find the timing of the mutation suggestive (although not conclusive): one of the partially-copied genes seems to arrive in the human genome at around the same time as modern humans began to supplant their hominid predecessors. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.