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Origins of the brain – new study

June 9, 2008
“Although many studies have looked at the number of neurons, none has looked at the molecular composition of neuron connections. We found dramatic differences in the numbers of proteins in the neuron connections between different species”.

“We studied around 600 proteins that are found in mammalian synapses and were surprised to find that only 50 percent of these are also found in invertebrate synapses, and about 25 percent are in single-cell animals, which obviously don’t have a brain.”

Most important for understanding of human thought, they found the expansion in proteins that occurred in vertebrates provided a pool of proteins that were used for making different parts of the brain into the specialised regions such as cortex, cerebellum and spinal cord.

Since the evolution of molecularly complex, ‘big’ synapses occurred before the emergence of large brains, it may be that these molecular evolutionary events were necessary to allow evolution of big brains found in humans, pri

clipped from www.eurekalert.org
One of the great scientific challenges is to understand the design principles and origins of the human brain. New research has shed light on the evolutionary origins of the brain and how it evolved into the remarkably complex structure found in humans.
The research suggests that it is not size alone that gives more brain power, but that, during evolution, increasingly sophisticated molecular processing of nerve impulses allowed development of animals with more complex behaviours.
Complex synapses drove brain evolution
The study shows that two waves of increased sophistication in the structure of nerve junctions could have been the force that allowed complex brains – including our own – to evolve. The big building blocks evolved before big brains.
“Our simple view that ‘more nerves’ is sufficient to explain ‘more brain power’ is simply not supported by our study,” explained Professor Seth
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