advertisement
Updated 14 November 2013

Baboons shed light on human brain evolution

Researchers gain understanding of genetic changes that led to brain folds

1

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 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 brain cells 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 evolution 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% 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.

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X

More:

BrainNews
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.