Since humans diverged from a common ancestor shared with chimpanzees and the other great apes, the human brain has changed dramatically. However, the genetic and developmental processes responsible for this divergence are not understood. Cerebral organoids (brain-like tissues), grown from stem cells in a dish, offer the possibility to study the evolution of early brain development in the laboratory.
Sabina Kanton, Michael James Boyle and Zhisong He, co-first authors of the study, together with Gray Camp, Barbara Treutlein and colleagues analysed human cerebral organoids through their development from stem cells to explore the dynamics of gene expression and regulation (using methods called single-cell RNA-seq and ATAC-seq). The authors also examined chimpanzee and macaque cerebral organoids to understand how organoid development differs in humans. “We observed more pronounced cortical neuron maturation in chimpanzee and macaque organoids compared to human organoids at the same point of development,” said co-senior author Barbara Treutlein. “This would suggest that human neuronal development takes place more slowly than in the other two primates.” Paper. paywall – Sabina Kanton, Michael James Boyle, Zhisong He, Malgorzata Santel, Anne Weigert, Fátima Sanchís-Calleja, Patricia Guijarro, Leila Sidow, Jonas Simon Fleck, Dingding Han, Zhengzong Qian, Michael Heide, Wieland B. Huttner, Philipp Khaitovich, Svante Pääbo, Barbara Treutlein, J. Gray Camp. Organoid single-cell genomic atlas uncovers human-specific features of brain development. Nature, 2019; 574 (7778): 418 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1654-9 More.
Interesting but not really a surprise because humans mature more slowly generally and live longer. No big news here that accounts for human uniqueness.
See also: What do animal studies tell us about human consciousness? They show that the human experience is unique. Many people assume that human consciousness arose accidentally many eons ago from animal consciousness and that therefore we can find glimmers of the same sort of consciousness in the minds of animals. But that approach isn’t producing the expected results.
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