Modern humans carrying certain DNA fragments of Neanderthal man have slightly smaller round skulls, according to a study released today, which investigates Molecular foundations of the global form of our brain.
"Our goal was to identify Possible candidate genes and biological pathways related to the brain clump"Said the geneticist Amanda Tilot, the Dutch Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics and co-author of the study published in the journal Current Biology.
To conduct their research, the team led by paleoanthropologist Philipp Gunz, from Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology based in Leipzig, Germany, combined fossil cranial analysis, sequence data from ancient genomes and brain images.
In addition, they used to use living fragments of neanderthal DNA buried in their genomes by living people with European ancestry.
The researchers studied The genome of about 4,500 living people identified the fragments of Neandertal DNA and found that those present on chromosomes 1 and 18 were related to the brain less globular and therefore more elongated.
These fragments were also associated with two genes, called UBR4 and PHLPP1, associated with brain development.
The strongest evidence of the effects of these Neanderthal DNA fragments on gene activity was found by these experts in the putamen located in the basal ganglia and cerebellum.
Both structures participate in the preparation, learning and coordination of movements, and in the case of basal ganglia, they also contribute to cognitive functions.
"The effects of having these rare fragments of neanderthal DNA are really subtle but detectable because of the large sample size", noted geneticist Simon Fisher, from the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics.
This research is only "a first look at the molecular foundations of globularity" because "like other aspects of the brain structure it is a feature that is likely to be affected by the combined effects of many different genetic variants," he added. Fisher.
The authors of the study predict that future studies of the detection of the human genome will reveal additional genes associated with the global form of modern human skull.