What makes humans different from primates?

How did we develop the ability to talk and to walk on two legs, yet be the only organism that seems vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's? A new paper reviews several studies that show how genes can explain what makes our brains unique.

The genomics revolution has made it possible to explore another dimension of evolution - how gene expression levels changed over time. These studies show that our brain evolved differently to the rest of our body. Increases in gene levels in the adult brain in human evolution were more pronounced than in chimpanzee evolution, whereas other tissues show similar numbers of genes with increased and decreased expression levels.

Authors of the paper are: Daniel H. Geschwind, associate professor-in-residence, department of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and Todd M. Preuss, Division of Neuroscience & Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University.

The article appears in the Nov. online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nature Reviews Genetics.

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