Bruce Lahn, a biomedical researcher at the University of Chicago, has found the first clear indication of the genetic changes that led to the rapid expansion of our brain.Flowers for Algernon!
Lahn found that the ASPM gene in humans has undergone 15 important mutations since we last shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees, about 5 million years ago. [...] It seems to control how many times cells in the cerebral cortex can divide, which controls how much space there is for neurons. A variant of the gene that allowed additional cell divisions, Lahn surmises, gave some hominids the additional neural infrastructure that eventually let them develop abstract reasoning and language skills.
In future experiments, Lahn will insert the human ASPM gene into mice to see what affect it has on brain development.
The Gene That Made Us Human:
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