Scientists Reveal Genetic Mutation Impacted Brain Development

The mutation would have greatly increased the number of brain cells in hominins that preceded modern humans.

A study scientific of the Nature magazine states that the ancestors of Neanderthals and modern humans were traveling more than half a million years ago to different parts of the planet when they suffered a genetic mutation that produced a sudden improvement in their brains.

“Human TKTL1 implicates greater neurogenesis in the frontal neocortex of modern humans than in Neanderthals,” the team from the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated.

According to researchers from the science publicationthis mutation greatly increased the number of brain cells in hominins that preceded modern humans, likely giving them a cognitive advantage over their Neanderthal cousins.

In this sense, the neurologist Arnold Kriegstein, from the University of California, San Francisco, United States, shares the idea that this genetic variation is part of a set of modifications that gave humans an evolutionary advantage over other hominids.

“Neanderthal brains were similar in size to those of modern humans, but differed in shape. What we cannot tell from the fossils is how Neanderthal brains might have differed in the function or organization of brain layers, such as the neocortex,” according to Science.


In 2014, the complete sequence of the Neanderthal genome was identified, which led scientists to identify 96 amino acids different from those of contemporary humans, among other genetic variants, which were analyzed to understand what changes allowed modern humans to overcome in evolutionary terms before their peers.

The research, carried out by the Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, identified a gene that stood out in this process, a mutation that changed an amino acid, which generated a protein different from those present in ancestral hominids, Neanderthals. and non-human primates, reports Sputnik Mundo.

“The evolutionary expansion of the neocortex and the concomitant increase in neuron production are considered to underlie the increase in cognitive abilities that occurred during human evolution. Endocast analyzes reveal that the intracranial volume of modern humans and Neanderthals was similar, suggesting similar brain and neocortex size. But it is not yet clear whether the similar size of the neocortex implies a similar production of neocortical neurons.”

The scientists estimated that the protein identified as TKTL1 could increase the proliferation of neuron-generating cells, in addition, the researchers introduced the protein into the brains of embryos of mice and ferrets and the results showed that they developed significantly more neuron-generating cells.

Fossil evidence leads us to think that the brains of Neanderthals and humans were the same size, however, the differences could lie in aspects of density.

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