Origin of Human Intelligence --"Linked to a Genetic Accident 500 Million Years A
- URL to an interesting article from The Daily Galaxy
Researchers have identified the moment in history 500 million years ago
that provided our ability to learn complex skills, analyze situations and have
flexibility in the way in which we think. According to Professor Seth
Grant of the _University of Edinburgh_
(University%20of%20Edinburgh)&t=h) , who led the new research, intelligence in humans
developed as the result of an increase in the number of brain genes in our
evolutionary ancestors: a simple invertebrate animal living in the sea 500
million years ago experienced a “genetic accident,” which resulted in
extra copies of these genes being made.
The research team studied the mental abilities of mice and humans, using
comparative tasks that involved identifying objects on touch-screen
computers. They then combined results of these behavioral tests with information
from the genetic codes of various species to work out when different
behaviors evolved and discovered that higher mental functions in humans and mice
were controlled by the same genes.
The study also showed that when these genes were mutated or damaged, they
impaired higher mental functions. “Our work shows that the price of higher
intelligence and more complex behaviors is more mental illness,” said
“This ground breaking work has implications for how we understand the
emergence of psychiatric disorders and will offer new avenues for the
development of new treatments,” said John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental
Health at the _Wellcome Trust_ (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/) , one of the
The researchers had previously shown that more than 100 childhood and adult
brain diseases are caused by gene mutations.“We can now apply genetics and
behavioral testing to help patients with these diseases”, said Dr Tim
Bussey from _Cambridge University_
(University%20of%20Cambridge)&t=h) , which was also involved in the study.
Journal reference: Jess Nithianantharajah et al., Synaptic scaffold
evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity, _Nature
Neuroscience_ (http://www.nature.com/neuro/) , 2012, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3276"
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