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Did a Mutation Give Humans Thought? -Scientists Say "Yes"

Chp_black_brain_1 Although humans and chimpanzees genetically vary by just 1.2 percent, that small percentage makes a world of difference in the mental and linguistic capabilities between the two species. A study shows that a certain form of neuropsin, a protein that plays a role in learning and memory, is expressed only in the central nervous systems of humans. The scientists conclude that this critical difference originated less than 5 million years ago.

Dr. Bing Su of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming, China, and other researchers analyzed the DNA of humans and several species of apes and monkeys. Previously they had found that type II neuropsin, a longer form of the protein, is not expressed in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of lesser apes and Old World monkeys. In the new study, they tested the expression of type II in the PFC of two great ape species, chimpanzees and orangutans, and found that it was not present in these closely related species either. Since these two species diverged most recently from human ancestors (about 5 and 14 million years ago respectively), this finding demonstrates that type II is a human-specific mutation and originated relatively recently.

The researchers note that more studies should look further into the biological function of type II neuropsin in humans, in order to understand the genetic basis that underlies the traits that set humans apart from nonhuman primates.   

*The study was published online in Human Mutation, the official journal of the Human Genome Variation Society.

Posted by Rebecca Sato


very interesting. Needs some pondering.

It makes sense and is logical. Cant argue with logic now can we?


I don't understand how this reflects that a mutation gave human beings thought. The biggest problem with this assumption is, we don't know what consciousness is. Science takes one, and only one approach to consciousness, and that is that human form gives rise to consciousness. Now, not to bring religion into this, but there's a perfectly rational and reasonable assumption that consciousness gives rise to form, and thus, this 'neuropsin', is a bi-product of consciousness, and not a catalyst for consciousness.

Did you know that human mutations would rather comment on Digg than on the actual page of the article?

All evolutionary steps are mutations, the headline is quite silly.

Sure the headline is stupid but the article is interesting. This gene produces a protein which is only found in humans in our front cortex.
Well lets get cracking then... time for some genetic engineering of intelligent apes. It'll shut those anti-evolutionists up. Oh nvm that would be asking for too much. However maybe the intelligent apes would believe in evolution. That would be a blast.

@Jesse Tulips: According to Occam's Razor, it's always a better path of logic to use the simpler answer. In the case of consciousness is to be expected for us not to understand it considering that it is the highest form of complexity and in one sense it IS who we are.

Having said that it is easier to think that consciousness is a feature of the universe rather than the universe being a feature of consciousness. This mean that if enough or the right kind of complexity among neural (or silicon, who knows?) networks arises then consciousness (as in an independent observer) arises.

A parallel to the above is the rise of life from inanimate molecules. It is easier nowadays to think of abiogenesis giving rise to life when enough structural complexity enabled that feature (which -feature- is embedded to the structure of the universe) rather than an omniscient being interfering with the process...

@Steve: A flaw of your human quantification of an omniscient being is that it is too limited. Imagine a Being, not only omniscient, but, also omnipresent and omnipotent, which gives rise to the universe. The Being doesn't interfere with the process; rather, this process would merely be a feature of the Being.

@darin: You're talking about the deistic god (a pantheistic universe). No, that's not what I'm denying as improbable, rather than the quantified presence of a deity that some scriptures and mythologies are describing.

A deistic God, though, is not out of the question. Since -however- it is something we cannot really pinpoint, we have to deal with the universe as we understand it. No matter how incomplete would that be, it's the only understanding that we can actually study. After all if something is true a priori (like embedded features of the universe) would not be less true if their source was a being...

BTW by "consciousness" I meant the local feel of the world that we ascribe to ourselves rather that the one derived by an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent being (let's call it "consciousness Jr" :))

Impossible, since other animals think too.

Sorry for ALL of You also including china's or elsewhere researchers , BUT NONE of You and Them is using the word 'Cognition'.

This term (Cognition) is quite used in the Italian language and in Europen languages . It describes NOT the consciousness that is typical of many living species and is definitely present in all the mammals BUT the it is the 'true differentiator' of the so called 'sapiens-sapiens' that is us....actual men.

NOW evolution is typical of this planet and encompasses all living species....however 'cognition' seems not easy to replicate or produce(sorry for the friends of A.I. researches).

Cognition is indeed DNA related BUT not only....

Therefore the gracious 'Experts from China ' are talking of something that is NOT the true sapiens sapiens differentiator ....and then why to concentrate on Apes or various monkeys ?? Body resemblance ??

My dog 'thinks' and this is recognizable even if he cannot talk and express his thoughts with the human being symbolic language (the so called natural language), dolphins are believed to think.

Are the mammals capable of 'abstraction' ??? Or abstract thinking ???

We do not know even though it would appear that the correct answer is NO.

Origin of the intelligence: none has talked about it a forbidden issue ??

Genetic evolution : Yes good theory...but how the Neanderthal jumped to sapiens and how the sapiens jumped to sapians - sapiens ??

In Europe if the Chines experts do not know or reacall (we should tell them) the Neanderthal was perfeclly overlaid to Sapiens in both space and time domains (i.e. they were there at same time and same locations) and this is NOT inference or theory.

Then waht to say ?? Again neither us (the readers) or them (the researchers) Know the full story...this seems to be a FACT.

However You guys better start all-together to talk about COGNITION....just to avoid linguistic confusions.

Claudio, apes show signs of "cognition" You need to watch more nature shows.
Also, neanderthals and man coexisted, like man and chimps coexist today.
Neanderthals branched from man around 300,000 years ago, and went extinct around 30,000 years ago. Evidence indicates that neanderthals were capable of "cognition" too.

"Origin of the intelligence: none has talked about it a forbidden issue ??"

No, just completely unnecessary.

Except in the minds of the religious.

I am new to this field genetics and evolution thing, as far as my limited info i have, the evolution as darwinism say happens because the animal needed the change for example his food is high to reach during long period like million year his neck will get taller to reach the food. This evoluted animal will replace the old one. because if the ancester continue not to reach its food it will extinct. What I am not understanding why the ancesters and the evoluted are liing together! I am not finding this thing is perfect, can any one correct me when I am seeing the african chimp and humans are living at the same time

From the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Mandarin, translated to Americanese, by Chinese Multi-linguists, all, a superior, veggies and rice breed, not the spawn of the Federal Reserve System, America or the thieves therein. Soon, the Chinese will no longer feel translations appropriate, and in order to even understand the newer Science being advanced, the great hulking American Neanderthal will have to learn Chinese Mandarin, and beg for copies of the papers. His Asshole Foot Baller obsession days are over, his drunken sprees, dope additions, illicit sex for entertainment and asinine sports car obsessing have not served him well, nor have his gaming computers helped. He will now have to hit the books in serious disciplined fashion and in another language, just to keep up, where once he reigned supreme, and now his schools rate 32nd in the world, by his own President's shameful admissions. Such shame among such plentiful riches, so distorted he has become, ignoble waste of 80% of the worlds resources, to sit at the knee of China, India, begging new developments. Shame on the great meat eating hulking American Neanderthal, spawn of capitalism, corporatism, corruption, and dumb as stone. For Shame!

The title has a problem..."thought" every animals has thoughts.

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