How one gene made us brainier

When it comes to brain development, slow and steady wins the race. A single ancestral human gene that made two copies of itself may have helped the evolution of our large brains 2.5 million years ago, as our ancestors were diverging from their more distant ancestors.

Paradoxically, it seems the effect of the extra copies was to slow down individual brain development. This allowed time for neurons (brain cells) to develop more and better connections with one another.

Gene duplications are rare in human history: only about 30 genes have copied themselves since we split from chimps 6 million years ago. Learn more here.

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