WashingtonD.C. (USA), Oct. 5 : The UK scientists have in a recent study identified a number of new links between genes and brain size, opening up a whole new avenue of research to better understand brain development and brain related diseases like dementia.
A team of scientists from the Universities of Bath and Lincoln compared the genomes of 28 mammals with differing sizes of neocortex, the region of the brain that is involved in higher cognitive behaviors such as language and decision-making.
The size of this region differs hugely between species and this part of the brain has grown the most in human lineage over evolutionary time.
The study identified a number of gene families, which can grow and contract through gene duplication and deletion that have expanded in line with the growth of the neocortex relative to the size of the brain.
The research highlighted a host of new genes that haven't previously been linked with brain development, including those known to be involved in cell signaling and immune response.
The researchers hope this discovery might give a better understanding as to which genes are key in human brain development, which could lead to new insights into what goes wrong in a variety of mental health disorders, including dementia.
Lead researcher Araxi Urrutia said, "Most research on brain development uses mice as a model, but this approach could be missing some genes that are key for human brain development as our brains differ from those in mice in many aspects, most notably in the size of the neocortex." "By comparing the genomes of many different species with large and small brains, and correlating the expansion of gene families with size of neocortex in these species, we've identified several new families of genes that could be involved in brain development in species with a large neocortex such as elephants, dolphins and, of course, ours," she said.
Adding, "We hope this could help scientists better understand brain development and what goes wrong in conditions such as dementia.".