Humans Have Brain Cells Unique to Our Species

Medscape Staff

November 10, 2022

An analysis of the brains of several types of primates shows that humans have brain cells that are specific to our species, according to neuroscientists from Yale University.

What to Know

  • The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) is a brain region unique to primates and is essential for higher-order cognition.

  • New findings show that there are 109 shared primate cell types in the dlPFC. Five of those cell types include a type of microglia, or brain-specific immune cell, that is present only in humans, and a second type that is shared only by humans and chimpanzees.

  • The human-specific microglia type exists throughout development and adulthood, suggesting that the cells play a role in maintenance of the brain rather than combating disease.

  • Humans were also found to have the gene FOXP2, variants of which have been linked to verbal dyspraxia and also neuropsychiatric diseases, such as autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

  • Compared to other primate species, humans live in a very different environment and have a unique lifestyle; glia cells, including microglia, are very sensitive to these differences, so the type of microglia found in the human brain might represent an immune response to the environment.

This is a summary of the article, "What Makes the Human Brain Different? Yale Study Reveals Clues," published by the journal Science on August 25, 2022. The full article can be found on news.yale.edu.

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