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Why are some primates living in pairs?

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Humans are not the only species to form bonded pairs— many other animals do, including a large number of non-human primates. But why did pair bonding evolve in the first place? New research is exploring this issue.

While many primates live in pairs, the reasons behind this evolutionary step remained unclear.
While many primates live in pairs, the reasons behind this evolutionary step remained unclear.

Social relations and mating behaviors are as diverse among animal species as the species itself. Several features have proven to be more difficult to researchers than others, and one of them is pair-bonding.

Humans are not unique in their tendency to find a mate for a long time— sometimes for a lifetime.

Among the ranks of our distant cousins, the non-human primates, about 1 in 5 live in pairs, according to Prof. Peter Kappeler, of the German Primate Center– Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany, and Assistant Professor Luca Pozzi, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, San Antonio.

In a new study paper — now featured in Science Advances— the two scientists tried to elucidate the mystery of what led some primates to a largely monogamous lifestyle.

“Living as a pair is an evolutionary jigsaw in the evolution of mammalian social systems because males could achieve higher reproductive rates if they were not linked to a single female,” says Pozzi.

Female spacing and paternal care

Throughout their analysis, the researchers clarify that some primates live mainly throughout pairs, others are solitary— usually males who occasionally associate with groups of females— and the remainder live in hierarchical groups of both sexes.

But what made this complex set of social arrangements possible?

Pair-living, writes Prof. Kappeler and Pozzi, may play a crucial role in understanding the evolution of the complex social structures of non-human primates.

“[ The term ‘ pair-living’] refers to a social organization in which one adult male and one female stay together and coordinate their activities,” the researchers write. They’re moving on to clarify that this relationship isn’t just about monogamous marriage.

However, they note that many primates live in pairs are not monogamous— some prefer reproductive partners outside of a couple. So, what caused them to live in pairs?

In an attempt to answer this query, Pozzi and Prof. Kappeler studied the genetic data and standard behavior of 362 different primate species and modeled how their social relations may have evolved over time.

“Of the several explanations given for the evolution of mammalian couple-living,[ so far] only two have received repeated empiric support: female spacing and paternal care hypotheses,” the researchers write.

The female spacing hypothesis refers to the idea that when females spread across the area in search of resources, males become less likely to interact with larger groups of females and, in response, engage in pair-bonding.

The paternal care theory indicates that, in the case of some non-human primates, males may benefit from taking greater care of their offspring, providing them with food and shielding them from threats that may be more suited to a couple-bonding background.

To date, most scholars have assumed that the two theories are mutually exclusive. That’s not the case, according to Pozzi and Prof. Kappeler.

Their model— which gives an idea of how primates adapted to respond to environmental changes — suggests that both the two hypotheses regarding pair-living evolution could be right.

The paternal care hypothesis suggests that, in the case of some non-human primates, males may benefit from taking greater care of their offspring, providing them with food and protecting them from threats that may be more suited to a couple-like context.

To date, most researchers have concluded that both hypotheses are mutually exclusive. This is not the case, according to Pozzi and Prof. Kappeler.

Their model— which gives an idea of how primates evolved to react to environmental changes — suggests that both the two theories about pair-living evolution could be right.

‘Challenging and exciting’ research

Simultaneously, Pozzi and Prof. Kappeler warn that their description of the tendency of primates to form bonded pairs most certainly does not explain why humans do so.

“With our findings, the pair bond characteristic of humans inside larger social units can not be clarified, since none of our recent ancestors lived solitary,” warns Prof. Kappeler.

“However, the effects of parental care may also have led to pair-living consolidation in humans,” he goes on to suggest.

The researchers are pleased for the moment to have worked to elucidate a small part of the mystery of the social evolution of mammals.

“The evolution of complex social systems in mammals, and more specifically in primates, is a challenging and exciting area of research. Our study shows that pair-living — although rare — might have played a critical role in it.”

– Luca Pozzi, Ph.D.

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Infectious Diseases / Bacteria / Viruses

5 Terrifying Cases of Real Zombies

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Zombies have become iconic figures in popular culture, with the zombie apocalypse appearing in several books, films, and television shows. Is there, however, any evidence of zombiism in nature? Find out in this special feature.

zombiism

Zombie. The walking dead. Reanimated corpses. The undead.

Whatever you call them, these undead corpses who rise from the grave to terrorize — and occasionally infect — the world’s inhabitants are one of popular culture’s most terrifying monsters.

When poet Robert Southey highlighted it in his History of Brazil in the 1800s, the word zombie — originally written zombi — entered the English language.

The phrase derives from the Louisiana Creole or Haitian Creole word zonbi, and it is similar to the Kimbundu term nzmbe, which signifies ghost, according to Merriam-Webster.

The term originally referred to entities from Haitian folklore that were similar to ghosts from Western culture.

However, the term gradually came to apply to a person who is rendered senseless by a witch doctor and then enters a death-like state while still alive, thereby becoming the witch doctor’s slave.

People nowadays use the term “zombie” to describe someone who appears apathetic, walks slowly, and shows little awareness of their surroundings.

But, if zombies or zombie-like creatures really exist in nature, what are they and how did they come to be in this state of “undeath?” Is it possible for people to become zombie-like?

This Special Feature looks into it.

1. Zombie ants

Ophiocordyceps is a fungus genus with around 200 species and counting, according to mycologists. Many fungi can be deadly, often because they are toxic to mammals, but Ophiocordyceps is particularly terrifying for one reason in particular.

These fungus species use their spores to infect and kill a variety of insects. The parasitic fungus takes control of the insect’s mind after infection, modifying its behavior to facilitate the spread of fungal spores.

Ophiocordyceps “feed” on the insects to which they attach themselves, growing into and out of their bodies until they die.

Carpenter ants (Camponotus castaneus) native to North America are infected, controlled, and killed by one species, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis sensu lato.

Carpenter ants become zombies when Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects them. The ants are forced to ascend to the tops of tall vegetation, where they become attached and eventually perish. Because of the high elevation, the fungus can thrive and distribute its spores far and wide.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State (Penn State) University found that O. unilateralis take complete control of the ants’ muscle fibers, forcing them to move as it “wants” them to.

“We found that a high percentage of the cells in a host were fungal cells,” notes David Hughes, who is associate professor of entomology and biology at Penn State.

2. Zombie spiders

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, zoologist Philippe Fernandez-Fournier and colleagues from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, made a startling discovery.

They discovered that a previously unknown species of Zatypota wasp can manage spiders from the Anelosimus eximius species in ways that researchers have never seen before in nature.

A. eximius spiders are sociable creatures which like to stay in groups and never leave their colonies.

Members of this species infected with Zatypota larva, on the other hand, exhibited strange behavior, abandoning their colony to weave tightly woven, cocoon-like webs in faraway regions, according to Fernandez-Fournier and colleagues.

The researchers discovered Zatypota larvae thriving within these artificial “cocoons” when they opened them.

Further investigation revealed a terrible sequence of events. Zatypota wasps deposit eggs on A. eximius spiders’ abdomens. When the wasp larva hatches from the egg, it begins to feed on the spider and takes over its body.

When the larva gains complete control of its host, it transforms it into a zombie-like organism that is forced to flee its mates and spin the cocoon-like nest that will allow the larva to mature into an adult wasp.

The wasp larva, however, must first complete its “job” by devouring its host before entering its new “cocoon.”

“Wasps manipulating the behavior of spiders has been observed before, but not at a level as complex as this,” says Fernandez-Fournier.

“[T]his behavior modification is so hardcore. The wasp completely hijacks the spider’s behavior and brain and makes it do something it would never do, like leave its nest and spin a completely different structure. That’s very dangerous for these tiny spiders.”

Philippe Fernandez-Fournier

3. The reanimated virus

Reanimating humans, or at least human-like monsters, as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or H. P. Lovecraft’s “Herbert West: Reanimator,” has long tickled the attention of writers, filmmakers, and, of course, scientists.

While recovering dead humans is unlikely for our species at this time, reviving other organisms conceivable. This is especially concerning when we believe the creatures are viruses.

Researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at Aix–Marseille Université in France discovered an intriguing creature in the Siberian permafrost in 2014: Pithovirus sibericum, a 30,000-year-old gigantic virus.

The moniker “giant virus” comes from the fact that, despite their small size, they are plainly visible under a microscope. But there’s something else about P. sibericum that sets it different. It’s a DNA virus with a big number of genes – as many as 500 to be exact.

Other DNA viruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), have just roughly 12 genes in total.

According to the researchers who discovered P. sibericum, the size of huge viruses, as well as the fact that they carry such a vast quantity of DNA, can make them particularly deadly because they can survive for an extraordinarily long time.

“Among known viruses, the large viruses tend to be extraordinarily difficult, virtually impossible to break apart,” Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel, two of the virus’s discoverers, explain in a National Geographic interview.

“Because they are cold, anoxic [oxygen-free], and […] dark,” they write, “special settings like deep ocean sediments and permafrost are particularly good preservers of microorganisms [and viruses].”

P. sibericum only infected amoebas – primitive unicellular organisms — when it was “reanimated,” but not humans or other animals. Claverie and Abergel caution, however, that comparable enormous viruses could be buried in the permafrost and pose a threat to people.

Despite the fact that they have remained safely isolated thus far, climate change and human action may force them to resurface and spring to life, posing unknown health risks.

“Mining and drilling mean […] digging through these ancient layers for the first time in millions of years. If ‘viable’ [viruses] are still there, this is a good recipe for disaster.”

Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel

4. Zombie plants

Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, United Kingdom, discovered in 2014 that particular bacteria known as “phytoplasma” can turn some plants into “zombies.”

Insects spread the bacteria, which infects plants like goldenrods, which have yellow blossoms. Instead of blossoms, the goldenrods produce leaf-like extensions as a result of the infection.

More insects are attracted to the leaf-like growths, allowing the bacteria to “travel” and infect more plants.

While the plant does not die as a result of the change, scientists are intrigued by how phytoplasma may manipulate the host’s “will” to make it develop the ingredients they need to expand and prosper.

Prof. Günter Theißen of Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany, one of the researchers who has closely researched the activities of phytoplasma, says, “The insects transfer bacteria, so-called phytoplasmas, which damage the life cycle of the plants.”

“These plants become the living dead. Eventually, they only serve the spread of the bacteria.”

Prof. Günter Theißen

5. Human zombies?

Can people, on the other hand, turn become zombies? Dr. Chavannes Douyon and Prof. Roland Littlewood conducted research in the 1990s to see if Haitian zombies – reanimated but mindless individuals — were a serious threat.

In 1997, the two co-authored a study paper in The Lancet in which they examined the instances of three Haitians who had been labeled as zombies by their communities.

One of them was a 30-year-old woman who died shortly after becoming ill. Three years later, her family noticed her going about like a “zombie.” Another was a young guy who “died” at the age of 18 and reappeared at a cockfight after another 18 years.

The third case study involved another woman who “died” at the age of 18 but reappeared as a zombie 13 years later.

Dr. Douyon and Prof. Littlewood investigated these three “zombies” and discovered that they were not the victims of an evil spell. Rather, medical issues could be to blame for their zombification.

The first “zombie” suffered from catatonic schizophrenia, a rare disorder that causes a person to stroll around in a daze. The second had epilepsy and had suffered brain damage, while the third appeared to have a learning problem.

“People with a severe mental disease, brain damage, or learning disability are not often seen roaming in Haiti,” the researchers write, “and they would be more likely to be classified as lacking volition and memory, which are hallmarks of a zombi.”

However, there is a psychiatric disease known as Cotard’s syndrome that can make people act like zombies. A person with this disease believes they are dead or rotting.

It’s unclear how common this illness is, but evidence suggests it’s uncommon. Nonetheless, documented occurrences of people with Cotard’s condition are alarming.

A 53-year-old lady “was claiming that she was dead, smelled like rotten flesh, and wanted to be transferred to a morgue so that she could be with dead people,” according to one case study.

According to another account, a 65-year-old man claimed that his organs, including his brain, had stopped working and that his house was slowly but steadily crumbling.

The man attempted to commit suicide at one point. “His suicide note revealed that he wanted to kill himself because he feared transmitting a dangerous sickness to the villagers, who would thereafter [get] cancer,” researchers write.

Do such occurrences indicate that zombies are real in some manner, or do they simply represent our uneasy relationship with death, as our infatuation with the idea of the zombie in folklore and popular culture does?

We’ll leave it up to you to make your decision.

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COVID-19

Should we be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer?

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white-tailed deer
SARS-CoV-2 has recently been found in white-tailed deer in the United States, according to scientists.

SARS-CoV-2 is thought to be a zoonosis, or a disease that spreads from nonhuman animals to people via an intermediary nonhuman animal with whom humans come into contact.

Scientists are unsure which animal acted as the originator or intermediate at this time. All known human coronaviruses, on the other hand, have nonhuman animal origins.

Experts believe that the meat markets of Wuhan, China, provided a chance for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to spread from nonhuman animals to humans, similar to how the initial SARS-CoV virus spread from nonhuman animals to humans in 2002 and 2003.

There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has returned to additional animal species, in addition to nonhuman animals.

The virus has sickened pets, animals in zoos and sanctuaries, and farm mink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

White-tailed deer infection

SARS-CoV-2 has now spread to white-tailed deer in the United States, according to many newly disclosed reports.

Researchers analyzed the blood of 624 deer from four states in the United States before and during the pandemic, according to a brief article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. They discovered SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 40% of the samples taken since the pandemic began.

Researchers used a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay to discover SARS-CoV-2 in 129 out of 360 deer in northeast Ohio, according to a preprint article that has yet to be peer reviewed.

Researchers utilized RT-PCR assays on lymph node samples gathered from 283 captive and wild deer in another preprint investigation. SARS-CoV-2 was found in one-third of the samples.

A concern

Scientists are concerned about the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in animal communities because it raises the risk of a new strain of the disease, which might be more severe, spreading back into human populations.

Dr. Graeme Shannon, a lecturer in zoology at Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences in Wales, told Medical News Today:

Animal reservoirs have the potential to generate mutations that the human immune system has not come into contact with before. We see this regularly with influenzas that hop readily from birds and a number of mammals back into humans.”

“However, equally, the disease may infect wildlife and mutate but become less of a threat to humans as it adapts to the biology of the current host.”

“Certainly, the presence of multiple animal reservoirs on top of the high prevalence of the disease in humans would be cause for concern. This could complicate our attempts to suppress the disease. Indeed, we have already seen that infected captive mink were able to reinfect farmworkers,” said Dr. Shannon.

Origin of the infection?

Scientists are still unsure how the deer contracted SARS-CoV-2.

Prof. Vivek Kapur told MNT that the deer could have become infected in a variety of ways, but that direct hunting interactions were unlikely.

“While there are likely many sources through which human-to-deer spillovers may occur, including contact with contaminated food — for example, a contaminated half-eaten apple thrown in the woods or contaminated bait or food left for deer in urban settings — [or] a contaminated environment — discarded tissue, spit, or other bodily fluids from hunters or hikers in the forest — or even a yet undiscovered intermediary host such as the deer mouse

Prof. Kapur is an associate director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and a professor of microbiology and infectious diseases. He was also a co-author on one of the previously mentioned preprint research.

“We have no evidence that hunting interactions are the primary mode of transmission,” he explained. However, he also added that “hunting may contribute through the larger number of people on public lands where there are deer, and [it] also causes dispersal and mixing of deer that may enhance opportunities for transmission.”

Prof. Kapur further stated that the virus is likely to infect other deer species.

“There is considerable evidence from natural or experimental infection with SARS-CoV-2 of many different animal species, and based on the structure of the ACE-2 receptor targeted by the viral spike protein, other cervid species are highly likely to be able to get infected.”

The new reports are noteworthy, according to Dr. Shannon, since they reveal that SARS-CoV-2 can circulate in wild animal populations.

“We are currently aware that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted to domestic animals such as cats and dogs, as well as captive species, particularly farmed mink. There are also reports of the virus in zoo animals.”

“I think what is really interesting about the latest studies from the U.S. is that there is now solid evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted to and among free-ranging mammals.”

“Another point worth considering is that although these species are all mammals, they are quite phylogenetically distinct and come from a range of taxonomic families, demonstrating that the disease is not specific to one host — or even similarly related hosts.”

– Dr. Shannon

“This is likely further exacerbated by the prevalence of the disease in the human population, which presents multiple opportunities for SARS-CoV-2 to infect other animal species,” he added.

Other potential reservoirs?

Dr. Eman Anis, an assistant professor of pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, told MNT that the virus could be circulating among other animal species.

“Because we don’t know the exact reservoir, or reservoirs, of SARS-CoV-2, there’s a chance there are animal reservoirs that we don’t know about.”

“Several animal species, such as civets and pangolins, have been considered potential viral reservoirs,” she noted. “Until researchers discovered the virus in deer populations across numerous states, white-tailed deer were not considered a potential reservoir of the virus.”

“What we do know, however, is that any animal species that has the capacity to maintain the virus permanently and potentially spread it to humans or other domestic or wild animals could be a potential reservoir of SARS-CoV-2.”

“We will not be able to determine exact reservoirs and the true host range of SARS-CoV-2 until we conduct extensive surveillance on both domestic and wild animals to determine which species can permanently maintain the virus and spread the infection to other animals and humans.”

– Dr. Anis

Importantly, scientists aren’t clear if SARS-CoV-2, which is circulating in deer populations, may subsequently spread to humans.

“We highly propose expanding surveillance for the virus in additional peri-domestic and free-living species to better understand the dangers associated with infection overflow to other potential reservoir species and prospects for spill back to humans,” Professor Kapur told MNT.

More investigation is required

Dr. Roderick Gagne is an assistant professor of wildlife disease ecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. More research is needed, he told MNT, to have a better knowledge of the hazards associated with SARS-CoV-2 circulating in white-tailed deer.

“No research has been done on the risk of the virus spreading to people because it was only recently detected in deer.” We need to learn more about how widespread the virus is in deer, what variations are circulating, and whether deer can keep the virus continuously and shed it in high titer/load.”

“More research is needed to investigate the genetic links between SARS-CoV-2 strains acquired from deer and humans at the same time.”

“Epidemiological studies would also need to assess the possibility for deer to infect humans — for example, by monitoring those who care for confined deer,” Dr. Gagne stated.

Gail Keirn, a public affairs specialist for the National Wildlife Research Center of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told MNT that more research was needed to fully comprehend the importance of these early observations.

“Research and surveillance are needed to determine 1) when and where white-tailed deer are being exposed to the virus, 2) if the virus is circulating in deer populations, 3) if new variants of the virus are emerging in deer, and 4) what is the risk, if any, to deer, other animals, and people,” said Keirn.

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Neurology / Neuroscience

What differentiates human neurons from those of other mammals?

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 human neurons
A fascinating study has discovered a fundamental characteristic that differentiates human neurons from those of other mammals.
  • Human neurons have far fewer ion channels than other mammalian neurons, according to a group of experts.
  • The reduced number of ion channels may contribute to human brain function being more efficient.
  • The results of the neuroscientists pave the path for more investigation into the evolutionary forces that underpin this divergence.

The central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, is made up of neurons. Electrical impulses and chemical signals are used to communicate.

There are around 100 billion of these cells in the human brain.

The activation of ion channels, which govern the passage of mineral ions such as potassium and sodium, generates neuronal impulses. In mammalian brains, the density of ion channels in the neurons grows as the size of the neurons increases.

This was not the case for human neurons, much to the amazement of neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Their findings will be published in Nature in November 2021.

 “These findings have important implications for understanding our outstanding cognitive abilities and the challenges [that] therapies derived from animal models face in human clinical trials.” said Lou Beaulieu-Laroche, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and the study’s lead author, in a recent LinkedIn post.

This study represents Dr. Beaulieu-“greatest Laroche’s scientific achievement.”

Exploring allometric relationships

Neuronal input-output properties are determined by neuronal size, which impacts how likely a neuron is to “fire” in response to a certain degree of input from neighboring neurons. Neuron size also varies greatly between mammalian species.

Brain samples from people with epilepsy who had had neurosurgical treatment, Etruscan shrews, mice, rabbits, and macaques, among other species, were studied by the study.

“characterize layer 5 cortical pyramidal neurons across 10 mammalian species to identify the allometric relationships that govern how neuronal biophysics change with cell size.” the researchers said.

The authors chose these group of neurons because they are “reliably recognizable” and have been researched extensively by scientists. The study of how an animal’s traits change with its size is known as allometry.

The researchers were able to examine different neuronal sizes and cortical thicknesses across the mammalian kingdom by investigating ten species.

The scientists concentrated on two types of ion channels in particular: hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels and voltage-gated potassium channels. They focused on these two because they are easy to access and have a significant impact on neural networks.

Exception to the patterns

Except for humans, the neuroscientists noticed a “construction blueprint” that was identical across all species. They express themselves as follows:

“We observe conserved principles that control the conductance of voltage-gated potassium and HCN channels in 9 of the 10 species.” Membrane ionic conductances are higher in species with larger neurons and, as a result, a lower surface-to-volume ratio.”

Conductance refers to the capacity of ions to easily pass through ion channels in the membrane of a neuron.

Human neurons do not have the same allometric patterns as the other nine mammals, according to Dr. Beaulieu-Laroche and colleagues. In human neurons, however, voltage-gated potassium and HCN channel conductances were significantly lower.

These findings demonstrate “conserved evolutionary principles for neuronal biophysics in mammals, as well as notable features of the human cortex.”

Enhanced computational potential

Human neurons are larger than those of other mammals, according to some of the authors of this study.

However, the current findings indicate that human layer 5 neurons “are not just large […] but are fundamentally distinct.”

Keiland Cooper, a neuroscientist from the University of California, Irvine, spoke with Medical News Today about the latest study. He was not a part of this study.

Cooper was intrigued that human layer 5 neurons were distinct in terms of ion channels. He speculated, “Perhaps the human brain diverges from the pattern to meet a changing energy demand, as opposed to other species.”

The lower membrane conductance of human neurons, according to Dr. Beaulieu-Laroche and his co-authors, allows the cerebral cortex “to allocate energetic resources to other aspects of neuronal function (e.g., synaptic transmission) that are more computationally effective.”

To put it another way, the energy saved by having fewer ion channels could be used to help the human brain perform other, more difficult tasks.

‘Novel and important locus’

This study presents “a fresh and important locus for future investigations into the human condition,” according to its authors.

The neuroscientists want to know where the excess energy in human neurons goes. They also want to see if there are any genetic modifications that allow human neurons to become so effective.

Furthermore, these scientists wonder if primates that are closely related to humans have lower ion channel density as well.

Cooper is also looking forward to these discoveries, as he told MNT:

“Cross-species studies like these are terrific, and due to the methodological difficulties, are done far less often than they probably should be.”

“A study like this will raise a whole new set of issues that must be investigated: What could be the source of the distinctions between humans and other animals? Are there any distinct genetic markers or developmental milestones that separate species? What functional implications might there be, or does the brain adjust in some way?”

Cooper added, “I’m really excited to see the follow-up work that will result from this study.”

The future

The researchers don’t know why “[ion] conductance per volume is lower in humans, or why it is conserved in all other studied species,” according to the researchers. This will necessitate a lot more investigation.

The researchers note out that the disease history and therapies of the persons who provided the samples could have influenced the study’s outcome.

“Previous studies with extensive patient history and surgery types failed to observe significant correlations between disease etiology and dendritic morphology or synaptic plasticity.”
“Previous studies with extensive patient history and surgery types failed to observe significant correlations between disease etiology and dendritic morphology or synaptic plasticity.”

On this point, Cooper agrees; he told MNT, “I think the authors create a compelling case for the human neurons to be representative, however, further work to dissociate these differences will need to be completed to confirm this single study.”

As for next steps, the authors conclude their paper by noting:

“Future research is needed to establish the evolutionary pressures underpinning these different traits and their importance to human brain function,” says the researcher.

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