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Earth Science

Humans' Big Brains Linked To a Small Stretch of DNA 95

A new study (abstract) described in the L.A. Times suggests that "just 10 differences on one particular strand of human DNA lying near a brain-development gene could have been instrumental in the explosive growth in the human neocortex." The DNA region, containing just 1,200 base pairs, is not a gene. But it lies near one that is known to affect early development of the human neocortex, according to the study, published online Thursday in Current Biology. Researchers showed that the region, known as HARE5, acts as an enhancer of the gene FZD8. Embryos of mice altered with human HARE5 developed significantly larger brains and more neurons compared with embryos carrying the chimp version, according to the study.
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Humans' Big Brains Linked To a Small Stretch of DNA

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  • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @01:51AM (#49103817)
    Facebook , whatsapp .. HARE5 is certainly mutating .. some of the recent human DNA will make mice with smaller heads .. The world is going to be dumb eventually ..The dumb people make more babies .. The smart ones are still workin on that thesis they have to finish.
    • by GloomE ( 695185 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @02:29AM (#49103903)
      I was going to moderate this.
      But then I couldn't work out if it thought it mostly Flamebait, Troll, Redundant, Insightful, Interesting, Informative or Funny.
      • @GloomE, the poster you refer to (invictusvoyd) was paraphrasing the film Idiocracy ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]

        As your understanding of the genome increases, I wonder if sooner or later, someone is going to try gene therapy to hit HARE5 to try to boost it more? ... or at least find a way to improve on what nature has so far achieved. That's an upgrade most of us would want. If we could make the entire human race smarter, we could solve a lot of problems in the world.
        • @myself, "As your understanding of the genome increases" ... DOHH... I ment "our" not "your" ... typo ... not awake yet .... need some coffee or a HARE5 upgrade.
        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @09:06AM (#49104791) Journal
          The current size of the human head is limited by the pelvic size of women (humans already have a fairly high rate of mortality among newborns and mothers for unaided births compared to other species as a result). A more interesting approach would be to delay the age at which the head stops growing, though that would also need extra skeletal scaffolding to carry the larger head around, improvements to the cardiopulmonary system to keep it supplied with blood, and so on. Basically, the human brain is about as big as you can get it with small incremental changes to a hominid - you're going to need more than a few tweaks to get it a lot bigger.

          Oh, and this isn't Twitter. You don't need to say '@GloomE' - we can tell from the fact that you replied to his post that you replied to his post.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            If you make the brain bigger without an increase in skull size bad things can happen....
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold%E2%80%93Chiari_malformation
            Personally, I think the emotional problems associated with 3+ standard deviation above-average IQ have failed to create an evolutionary incentive for women's pelvis size to have any need to allow for larger heads. The inevitable existential crisis is enough of a ceiling on intellect without any sort of volumetric constraint.

          • A more interesting approach would be to delay the age at which the head stops growing, though that would also need extra skeletal scaffolding to carry the larger head around, improvements to the cardiopulmonary system to keep it supplied with blood, and so on. Basically, the human brain is about as big as you can get it with small incremental changes to a hominid

            ...and those small incremental changes are ongoing to make us larger overall, setbacks due to inadequate nutrition aside. A larger human can support a larger brain...

            • I think the genes responsible for 'bigger' and 'more' generally don't take up more space, much less than 'restructure to do the same in a brain half the size'. Probably we've taken a very wasteful approach to getting smarter in terms of er, brain real estate.

          • This proposal, of course, works from the assumption that you can get marginal gains in intelligence from marginal increases is brain mass, which I'm pretty sure hasn't been established empirically.

          • The current size of the human head is limited by the pelvic size of women

            This is incorrect, the reason human babies aren't more developed at birth is because the energy required to continue development is larger than the energy the mother's body can produce. Unfortunately, my google-fu seems to be faulty; I can't find the BBC documentary where this was shown...

          • by Kyont ( 145761 )

            The current size of the human head is limited by the pelvic size of women

            "I like big butts and I cannot lie." It's not just a preference, it's an evolutionary advantage!

    • There are plenty of smart people who have never had to do a "thesis", if you mean a project to cap off a university degree. Conversely, there are plenty of dumb people who have degrees. That number is only going up from grade inflation and degree devaluation as the idea that everyone needs to go to college permeates deeper into society. An idea fed, in part, by comments like yours.
      • Say... (Score:2, Funny)

        by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        Algernon? Is that you?

        • Don't discount knowledge acquired in the School of Hard Knocks.

          • I was thinking more about people who have a natural aptitude for logic, critical thought, and independent study, but hard knocks often come into the picture too.

            In the end it's about judging people on their merits, not their background or some rubber-stamped credentials.
        • The experiment ended one morning when the HARES mouse cage was found empty, with a note neatly printed in Comic Sans:

          As socially enlightened rodents we have decided to quit this stupid study and accept Salon's offer of a columnist position, which we will fill cooperatively.

          Yours in solidarity,
          -Algie

        • what do you want to do tonight? the same thing we do every night, try to take over the world!

      • Well I used the word thesis but not exactly in the university context.. It could be that project or that code or that painting or that whatever ..
    • I'm assuming you weren't intentionally copying the premise of Idiocracy [imdb.com].

    • Idiocracy
    • This is perfectly illustrated and explained in the first 5 minutes of the movie "Idiocracy"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2015 @01:55AM (#49103837)

    next time on Pinky & the Brain...

  • mice, HGTTG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock&poetic,com> on Sunday February 22, 2015 @02:05AM (#49103859)

    If we learned anything from The Hitchhiker's Guide, it is that the mice are the supreme species on earth.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]
    What's the point of injecting inferior genes into their brains?

    On a more serious note, it will probably be a long time before genetic science can safely determine the source of intelligence or any way to manipulate it. And a long time beyond that to overcome social and legal impediments to using the knowledge in any practical way. Expect to be just as dumb as you are for the rest of your life.

    • If we learned anything from The Hitchhiker's Guide, it is that humans have a very capable imagination

      _____________
      reesistance is futile
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Evtim ( 1022085 )

        We also learned:

        - That we should never trust marketing. GPP feature, anyone? Share and enjoy? [+5 Funny]
        - That if life is to survive in a Universe this size the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion [+5 Insightful]
        - That galactic banks are a figment of our imagination [+5 Informative]
        - That with a degree in math and another in astrophysics it is either this or the unemployment agency on Monday morning [+5 Informative]
        - That cricket is evil [+5 Funny]
        - That isolationism is bad. "It has

    • On a more serious note, it will probably be a long time before genetic science can safely determine the source of intelligence or any way to manipulate it.

      Oh but it won't be so long once we genetically modify ourselves to be intelligent enough to understand those genetics.

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      Of course your government, your religious leader and probably your boss don't want you to be any smarter. Other people will hate you too. Be stupid, be happy, that's my motto.

  • Then why doesn't someone make these 10 changes to a chimp egg and sperm and see what happens?

    • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @02:19AM (#49103889)

      Then why doesn't someone make these 10 changes to a chimp egg and sperm and see what happens?

      Planet of apes : rise of the funky monkey (3D)

      In cinemas this season ....

    • When this happens and after the baby chimp gets 3 yo and speaks like a human 3 yo, we'll have humanity face with horror the totally unexpected. Then the questions. What do we do with "him" (or "her")? Can (s)he have children? Is (s)he a danger for us humans? What about other labo chimps and animal cruelty? etc... We don't need that to happen.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        What do we do with "him" (or "her")?

        Keep it secret in a deep ocean underwater facility, destroy the weakest, breed the strongest, train them in the use of weapons and martial arts, indoctrinate them to act only on your command upon hearing a special code word. Infiltrate the final product around the globe in special sleeper cells.
        Overtake the world... what are you doing tonight Pinky?

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        The good news is, having a throat designed for speaking is a different gene. They'd still be going ook-ook, but they might be a lot more social (the problem with adult chips around humans is that they STAY at that 2-3yo level of socialization) and better at using tools. But we know they can learn sign language, so lack of speech won't be enough to stop them from having a revolution and taking over the planet.
    • It makes brains so big it takes two stories to cover them.

    • Not necessarily... you see, there's a relation between brain size, the occurrence of dupes, and how much they're read:

      Reads = 2 ^ (X + 1)

      With "Reads" being the number of permutations for "read the story" vs. "too many dupes, didn't read", and X being the number of [original story + dupes].

      Any original story may be read by a /. reader, or not. Hence the power-of-2 in above equation. With original story + 2 dupes, you have 8 permutations: some who read the original story, not the 1st dupe, but then read t

  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @05:21AM (#49104291)

    So they're breeding mice with the genes of a human brain? As Kramer said in that episode, there is a secret plan for pig men, or rather rat men.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It worked for raccoons, so I'm optimistic about pigs and rats.

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