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Origins of the brain
Date:6/8/2008

02 is necessary for a mouse to use the correct learning strategy when solving mazes, and when this gene is defective in human it results in a form of mental disability.

"The molecular evolution of the synapse is like the evolution of computer chips - the increasing complexity has given them more power and those animals with the most powerful chips can do the most," continues Professor Grant.

Simple invertebrate species have a set of simple forms of learning powered by molecularly simple synapses, and the complex mammalian species show a wider range of types of learning powered by molecularly very complex synapses.

"It is amazing how a process of Darwinian evolution by tinkering and improvement has generated, from a collection of sensory proteins in yeast, the complex synapse of mammals associated with learning and cognition," said Dr Richard Emes, Lecturer in Bioinformatics at Keele University, and joint first author on the paper.

The new findings will be important in understanding normal functioning of the human brain and will be directly relevant to disease studies. Professor Grant's team have identified recently evolved genes involved in impaired human cognition and modelled those deficits in the mouse.

"This work leads to a new and simple model for understanding the origins and diversity of brains and behaviour in all species" says Professor Grant, adding that "we are one step closer to understanding the logic behind the complexity of human brains"


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Contact: Don Powell
don@sanger.ac.uk
44-012-234-96928
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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