A gene that regulates bone growth and muscle metabolism in mammals may take on an additional role as a promoter of brain maturation, cognition and learning in human and nonhuman primates, according to a new study led by neurobiologists at Harvard Medical School.
The research reveals that osteocrin—a gene found in the skeletal muscles of all mammals and well-known for its role in bone growth and muscle function—is completely turned off in rodent brains yet highly active in the brains of nonhuman primates and humans.
Notably, osteocrin was found predominantly in cells of the neocortex—the most evolved part of the primate brain, which regulates sensory perception, spatial reasoning and higher-level thinking and language in humans.
The gene’s marked presence in an area of the brain responsible for higher-level function and thought, the researchers said, suggests a possible role in the development of cognition….
“We have uncovered what we believe is a critical clue into the evolution of the human brain, one that gives us a glimpse into the genetic mechanisms that may account for differences in cognition between mice and humans,” said senior investigator Michael Greenberg, the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology….
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