Monkey Business

Plastic brain model

Watching monkeys at the zoo – so cute! Until they start throwing their poop …!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying…

Humans and monkeys are similar – minus the poo-pitching. Mostly. We’ve got two arms, two legs, and developed brains. However, our human brains are more complex and let us solve challenging problems. Why is that?

A human gene, ARHGAP11B, was recently found to make brains LARGER – at least in mice! Michael Heide from the Max Planck Institute wondered — could this gene make the small brains of primates larger too?

Heide and colleagues inserted the gene into marmoset monkey fetuses using gene-editing technology. When treated, these marmoset brains became EIGHT percent larger and TEN percent more complex! This means the brains developed MORE folds, something usually seen in smarter species!

Heide’s finding starts to unmask how human brains develop! This could lead to better understanding of brain conditions such as epilepsy, autism, and ADHD.

Maybe our brain power is what helps us solve problems better than monkeys can! Like…finding better places to put that poo.

Heide, M., Haffner, C., Murayama, A., Kurotaki, Y., Shinohara, H., Okano, H., Sasaki, E., & Huttner, W. B. (2020). Human-specific ARHGAP11B increases size and folding of primate neocortex in the fetal marmoset. Science, 369(6503), 546–550.