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Brain Folding Gene

June 30, 2011

A tiny fragment of a single gene makes or breaks the all-important folding of brain tissue.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A gene that transforms our brains…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Human brains aren’t the biggest in the animal kingdom, but they are the most densely folded. It’s believed that the extra surface area allows us to think in complex ways. Now, Yale University neurosurgeon Murat Gunel and his colleagues have identified a tiny part of one gene, for a protein called laminin, that plays a pivotal role in the folding. Surprisingly, the same gene’s found in mice, which have unfolded brain tissue. But in mice, the gene mainly affects blood vessels and the membrane around the brain.

MURAT GUNEL (Yale University):

They are still important for that function in humans, but also somehow we switched it to use in our brain cells as well, in neurons.

HIRSHON:

The evidence came from a rare patient who’s missing the folds in her brain’s visual center – which makes it hard for her to link images to abstract thoughts. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.