Higher mammals, such as humans, have markedly larger brains than other mammals. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden recently discovered a new mechanism governing brain stem cell proliferation. It serves to boost the production of neurons during development, thus causing the enlargement of the cerebral cortex – the part of the brain that enables us humans to speak, think and dream. In the course of evolution, certain mammals, notably humans, have developed larger brains than others, and therefore more advanced cognitive abilities. Mice, for example, have brains that are around a thousand times smaller than the human one. In their study, which was conducted in cooperation with the Fritz Lipmann Institute in Jena, the researchers in Dresden wanted to identify factors that determine brain development, and understand how larger brains have evolved.
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