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BrainFacts.org

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INITIATIVE OF:

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Where's the Cuttlefish?

What can the cuttlefish’s remarkable camouflage abilities teach us about vision?

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No Laughing (Gray) Matter: Laughter, the Brain, and Evolution

Researchers are studying what happens in the brains of people and other animals when laughing to gain deeper insight into human behavior and its evolution.

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Toxins and Venoms

Simple curiosity about the sting of a scorpion or the toxicity of food poisoning has yielded unexpected results — novel research tools and drug targets.

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Introduction

Weighing in at about three pounds, the human brain is the largest and most complex of any living primate. But just as most human genes are nearly identical among mammals, so too does the human brain bear major similarities in structure and function to the brains of those species most closely related to us on the tree of life. However, even nervous systems from the simplest organisms offer clues about the function of the human brain. Researchers are also working to identify the key brain differences that endow humans with unique cognitive abilities, like speaking and abstraction. Neuroscientists study a variety of animal models, from zebrafish to songbirds. The simplicity of the nervous system in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans allowed scientists to trace all its neural connections. This insight could one day offer clues about connections in the human brain. Researchers also study chemicals in the animal world in hopes of finding new drug targets in the human.

Discoveries

How do human brains differ from those of other primates?

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Humans possess cognitive abilities very different from other creatures, thanks to a number of unusual features of our brains.

Brain Evolution: Neurogenomics Targets the Genes That Make Us Human

Source: Dana Foundation
The human brain is the crowning achievement of evolution. But what makes it so special?

A Tiny Worm with a Mighty Scientific Impact

Source: Society for Neuroscience
It’s a very small worm — only one millimeter in length — with a big name: Caenorhabditis elegans. But few organisms have made as large a contribution to science.

Evolution in the News

Humans Evolved Weak Muscles to Feed Brain's Growth, Study Suggests

Source: National Geographic
Date: 27 May 2014
Weak muscles evolved even faster than smart brains in people.

Strange Findings on Comb Jellies Uproot Animal Family Tree

Source: National Geographic
Date: 21 May 2014
A close look at the nervous system of the comb jelly has led a team of scientists to propose a new evolutionary history.

Repeats in Human DNA may Aggravate Autism Symptoms

Source: Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date: 21 April 2014
Certain DNA repeats that increased exponentially during human evolution are directly related to the severity of autism symptoms.

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