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Human brain evolution: transcripts, metabolites and their regulators

What evolutionary events led to the emergence of human cognition? Although the genetic differences separating modern humans from both non-human primates (for example, chimpanzees) and archaic hominins (Neanderthals and Denisovans) are known, linking human-specific mutations to the cognitive phenotype remains a challenge.  The new strategy is to focus on human-specific changes at the level of intermediate phenotypes, such as gene expression and metabolism, in conjunction with evolutionary changes in gene regulation involving transcription factors, microRNA and proximal regulatory elements. In this Review the authors show how this strategy has yielded some of the first hints about the mechanisms of human cognition.



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