Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolutionary increase in size of the human brain explained: Part of a protein linked to rapid change in cognitive ability

Date:
August 16, 2012
Source:
University of Colorado Denver
Summary:
Researchers have found what they believe is the key to understanding why the human brain is larger and more complex than that of other animals. The human brain, with its unequaled cognitive capacity, evolved rapidly and dramatically. Why? research indicates that what drove the evolutionary expansion of the human brain may well be a specific unit within a protein -- called a protein domain -- that is far more numerous in humans than other species.

Researchers have found what they believe is the key to understanding why the human brain is larger and more complex than that of other animals.

The human brain, with its unequaled cognitive capacity, evolved rapidly and dramatically.

"We wanted to know why," says James Sikela, PhD, who headed the international research team that included researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Mental Health. "The size and cognitive capacity of the human brain sets us apart. But how did that happen?"

"This research indicates that what drove the evolutionary expansion of the human brain may well be a specific unit within a protein -- called a protein domain -- that is far more numerous in humans than other species."

The protein domain at issue is DUF1220. Humans have more than 270 copies of DUF1220 encoded in the genome, far more than other species. The closer a species is to humans, the more copies of DUF1220 show up. Chimpanzees have the next highest number, 125. Gorillas have 99, marmosets 30 and mice just one. "The one over-riding theme that we saw repeatedly was that the more copies of DUF1220 in the genome, the bigger the brain. And this held true whether we looked at different species or within the human population."

Sikela, a professor at the CU medical school, and his team also linked DUF1220 to brain disorders. They associated lower numbers of DUF1220 with microcephaly, when the brain is too small; larger numbers of the protein domain were associated with macrocephaly, when the brain is too large.

The findings were reported today in the online edition of The American Journal of Human Genetics. The researchers drew their conclusions by comparing genome sequences from humans and other animals as well as by looking at the DNA of individuals with microcephaly and macrocephaly and of people from a non-disease population.

"The take home message was that brain size may be to a large degree a matter of protein domain dosage," Sikela says. "This discovery opens many new doors. It provides new tools to diagnose diseases related to brain size. And more broadly, it points to a new way to study the human brain and its dramatic increase in size and ability over what, in evolutionary terms, is a short amount of time."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado Denver. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. LauraJ. Dumas, MajestaS. O’Bleness, JonathanM. Davis, C.Michael Dickens, Nathan Anderson, J.G. Keeney, Jay Jackson, Megan Sikela, Armin Raznahan, Jay Giedd, Judith Rapoport, SandeshS.C. Nagamani, Ayelet Erez, Nicola Brunetti-Pierri, Rachel Sugalski, JamesR. Lupski, Tasha Fingerlin, SauWai Cheung, JamesM. Sikela. DUF1220-Domain Copy Number Implicated in Human Brain-Size Pathology and Evolution. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.07.016

Cite This Page:

University of Colorado Denver. "Evolutionary increase in size of the human brain explained: Part of a protein linked to rapid change in cognitive ability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816141537.htm>.
University of Colorado Denver. (2012, August 16). Evolutionary increase in size of the human brain explained: Part of a protein linked to rapid change in cognitive ability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816141537.htm
University of Colorado Denver. "Evolutionary increase in size of the human brain explained: Part of a protein linked to rapid change in cognitive ability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816141537.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins