In two papers published today in ‘Nature Neuroscience’, researchers have identified the key genes involved in the evolution of intelligence and complex behaviours in humans and other mammals.
The same genes that gave rise to higher mental function are also responsible for a number of brain disorders, the results reveal, suggesting that the evolution of intelligence came at the cost of mental illness.
The discovery pinpoints when in history the genes that enable us to think and reason evolved, giving us the ability to learn complex skills, analyse situations and have flexibility in how we think.
A team led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh used a combination of human and mouse behavioural studies and analysed the underlying genetics to work out how and when certain behaviours evolved.
Read more at The Wellcome Trust.