"National Museum of Natural History" by Adam Foster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How Neanderthal DNA might have shaped some human brains

Dec 14, 2018

By Ewen Callaway

No human has the brain of a Neanderthal — but some have hints of its shape.

The brain shape of some people with European ancestry is influenced by Neanderthal DNA acquired through interbreeding tens of thousands of years ago, researchers report on 13 December in Current Biology1.

These DNA variants seem to affect the expression of two genes in such a way as to make the brains of some humans slightly less round, and more like the Neanderthals’ elongated brains.

“It’s a really subtle shift in the overall roundedness,” says team member Philipp Gunz, a palaeoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “I don’t think you would see it with your naked eye. These are not people that would look Neanderthal-like.”

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