Baboons shed light on human brain evolution

November 12, 2013
Baboons shed light on human brain evolution
Researchers gain understanding of genetic changes that led to brain folds.

(HealthDay)—Research with baboon brains has provided new insight into the evolution of the human brain, a new study contends.

The genetics behind the development of folds in the human brain have been a mystery, but there are new clues in a study scheduled for presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego.

As the human brain evolved, there was a dramatic increase in the number of and connections, the researchers said. But this growth was restricted by the size of the skull in relation to the birth canal, leading the brain to fold into ridges and valleys.

"The evolution of the human brain over time is a very complex process," Elizabeth Atkinson, of Washington University in St. Louis, said in a Society for Neuroscience news release. "Our study connects the folding of the brain with the underlying genetics, and provides unique insight into how the of our genes has driven the shape, and ultimately the function, of our brains."

The researchers analyzed nearly 1,000 baboon brain scans and pinpointed a handful of chromosome segments and genes that affect the way the brain is folded.

It's thought that thinking capacity is determined by the growth these folds can accommodate.

Human brains have 30 percent more folds than chimpanzee brains, our closest evolutionary relative, according to the news release.

Research presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information: The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about the human brain.

Related Stories

Primate brains follow predictable development pattern

October 8, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—In a breakthrough for understanding brain evolution, neuroscientists have shown that differences between primate brains - from the tiny marmoset to human – can be largely explained as consequences of ...

Understanding ourselves by studying the animal kingdom

November 12, 2013

Research released today reveals a new model for a genetic eye disease, and shows how animal models—from fruit flies to armadillos and monkeys—can yield valuable information about the human brain. The findings were presented ...

Recommended for you

Improved memory thanks to irregular sleep-wake patterns

July 31, 2015

If you've had a good night's sleep, you are mentally more alert and your memory works more reliably. During sleep, a part of our forebrain called the prefrontal cortex remains active. It ensures that memories and learned ...

Take a trip through the brain (w/ Video)

July 30, 2015

A new imaging tool developed by Boston scientists could do for the brain what the telescope did for space exploration. In the first demonstration of how the technology works, published July 30 in the journal Cell, the researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.