In a paper published today in the journal Cell researchers reported their findings of a study of 214 genes related to the development of the human brain and nervous system. “People in many fields, including evolutionary biology, anthropology and sociology, have long debated whether the evolution of the human brain was a special event,” said senior author Bruce Lahn of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the University of Chicago. “I believe that our study settles this question by showing that it was.”
A summary of the paper in HHMI News reported that "one of the study's major surprises is the relatively large number of genes that have contributed to human brain evolution. 'For a long time, people have debated about the genetic underpinning of human brain evolution,' said Lahn. 'Is it a few mutations in a few genes, a lot of mutations in a few genes, or a lot of mutations in a lot of genes? The answer appears to be a lot of mutations in a lot of genes. We've done a rough calculation that the evolution of the human brain probably involves hundreds if not thousands of mutations in perhaps hundreds or thousands of genes — and even that is a conservative estimate.' It is nothing short of spectacular that so many mutations in so many genes were acquired during the mere 20-25 million years of time in the evolutionary lineage leading to humans, according to Lahn."
To read the paper abstract from Cell, click here.
To read the summary from HHMI News, click here.