CLOCK Gene May Hold Answers to Human Brain Evolution

A new study provides insight on the matter by demonstrating that a gene controlling our biological clocks also plays a vital role in regulating human-specific genes important to brain evolution. The findings from the O’Donnell Brain Institute open new paths of research into how CLOCK proteins produced by the CLOCK gene affect brain function and the processes by which neurons find their proper place in the brain.

How do adult brain circuits regulate new neuron production?

In a new study published in Cell Stem Cell, UNC School of Medicine neuroscientist Juan Song and colleagues discovered a long-distance brain circuit that controls the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. Before we are born, the developing brain creates an incredible number of neurons, which migrate to specific parts of the brain to ready us for life. Contrary to popular belief, genesis of new neurons does not stop at birth or even in childhood.

Autism Treatments May Restore Brain Connections

Scientists have identified a pair of treatments that may restore brain function to autism patients who lack a gene critical to maintaining connections between neurons, according to a study from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Although this gene has been linked to abnormal brain size, the research in mice demonstrates the gene has no such role and instead is needed to regulate a protein capable of inhibiting the ability of neurons to communicate with each other.