PerspectiveNeuroscience

Evolution of the human brain

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Science  31 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6503, pp. 506-507
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1840

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Summary

Since early hominids emerged 5 million years ago, humans have evolved sizable brains to support higher cognitive functions. In particular, the human cerebral cortex is greatly expanded, allowing accommodation of the evolutionary increases in the number of cortical areas, the functional modules that subserve perception, attention, motor control, cognition, memory, and learning. Duplicated genes specific to the Homo lineage have played key roles in human speciation, particularly in the development of the highly complex human brain (1) and the circuits of the cerebral cortex (2). On page 546 of this issue, Heide et al. (3) identify ARHGAP11B [Rho guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) activating protein 11B], a human-specific duplicated gene, as a regulator of human cerebral cortex development. By expressing ARHGAP11B in marmosets, a smooth-brained primate, this study explores the influence of the gene on expansion of the primate cortex.

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