They discover that modern humans with certain Neanderthal genes have fewer round skulls


Modern humans carrying certain fragments of Neanderthal Man's DNA have slightly less rounded skulls, according to a study released today investigating Molecular foundations of the globular form of our brain.

"Our goal was to identify Possible candidate genes and biological pathways related to brain globularity"Said geneticist Amanda Tilot of the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics and co-author of the study published in Current Biology.

To carry out their research, the team led by paleoanthropologist Philipp Gunz of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology based in Leipzig, Germany, combined analysis of skull fossils, sequence data from ancient genomes and brain images.

In addition, they took advantage of the fact that living humans with European ancestry carry certain fragments of Neanderthal DNA buried in their genomes.

The researchers studied The genome of about 4,500 living people identified the fragments of Neanderthal DNA and found that those present on chromosomes 1 and 18 were related to less globular and therefore more elongated brains.

These fragments were also associated with two genes, called UBR4 and PHLPP1, linked to brain development.

The strongest evidence for the effects of these Neanderthal DNA fragments on gene activity was found by these specialists in the putamen, located in the basal ganglia, and in the cerebellum.

Both structures participate in the preparation, learning and coordination of movements and, in the case of the basal ganglia, also contribute to cognitive functions.

"The effects of having these rare fragments of Neanderthal DNA are actually subtle but detectable because of the large sample size", noted geneticist Simon Fisher of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

This research is just "a first look at the molecular foundations of globularity," because "like other aspects of brain structure, it is a feature that is probably influenced by the combined effects of many different genetic variants," he added. Fisher.

The study's authors anticipate that future research into the detection of the human genome will reveal additional genes linked to the globular form of modern man's skull.


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