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Fine-scale analysis of the human brain yields insight into its distinctive composition
Date:4/12/2012

ble for sophisticated information processingspecifically the temporal and visual cortices. The vast majority of genes expressed in these areas, 84%, demonstrate consistent expression patterns between cortical areas. This finding supports the hypothesis that there are common principles of organization and function that apply throughout the cortex, and therefore studying one area in great detailthe visual cortex, for examplemay hold promise for uncovering fundamentals about how the whole brain works. The study also illustrates widespread conservation of gene expression among human individuals. The study reports that of the genes analyzed, only 46 (5%) showed variation in expression among individual, disease-free human brains in the cortical areas examined.

Distinctions among species

Several findings in the study point to differences and similarities between humans and mice. As the mouse is the most common model for the study of human brain function and diseases, it is crucial to understand how well it represents the human system and where its accuracy may be limited. Overall, the results of this study indicate good conservation of gene expression between the two species. While the majority of gene expression is similar, the authors of the study report some striking differences.

The findings reveal distinct molecular markers specific to each species. Tracing those genes attributable to particular cell typesthe building blocks of brain circuitsthe study authors point to a unique molecular signature for each cortical cell type. These molecular signatures may reflect and contribute to species-specific functions.

According to the study, only 21% of gene expression in the visual cortex exhibited differences between human and mouse, but the nature of those differences may reveal more about what makes us uniquely human. While very little variation among genes in the disease and evolution categories was observed, substant
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Contact: Steven Cooper
press@alleninstitute.org
646-358-2765
Allen Institute for Brain Science
Source:Eurekalert

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