Sci-News.com showcases the gene that gave us (and our Neanderthal and Denisovan cousins) big brains:
A gene that is responsible for brain size in modern Homo sapiens and their ancient relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, has been identified by a team of scientists from Germany led by Dr Wieland Huttner of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden.
…[T]hey noticed that one particular gene contributed to the reproduction of basal brain stem cells, triggering a folding of the neocortex.
The scientists said: “This gene manages to trigger brain stem cells to form a bigger pool of stem cells. In that way, during brain development more neurons can arise and the cerebrum can expand. The cerebrum is responsible for cognitive functions like speaking and thinking.”
According to the team, the gene, called ARHGAP11B, is found in modern-day humans and our ancient relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, but not in chimpanzees.