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Neanderthal-Inspired ‘Minibrains’ Hint at What Makes Modern Humans Special

Seeking to understand how our complex brains evolved, researchers have now switched a single human gene out for its Neanderthal counterpart in brain tissue grown in a lab dish. Changes to the resulting organoid reveal the role this gene may have played in ancient — and modern — brain development. “This is amongst the first studies of its kind to investigate how specific changes in the DNA of modern humans influences brain development,” says Debra Silver, a developmental neurobiologist at Duke University who was not involved with the work.

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