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Brainpower May Lie in Complexity of Synapses

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

Evolution's recipe for making a brain more complex has long seemed simple enough. Just increase the number of nerve cells, or neurons, and the interconnections between them. A human brain, for instance, is three times the volume of a chimpanzee's.

A whole new dimension of evolutionary complexity has now emerged from a cross-species study led by Dr. Seth Grant at the Sanger Institute in England.

Dr. Grant looked at the interconnections between neurons, known as synapses, which until now have been regarded as a standard feature of neurons. But in fact the synapses get considerably more complex going up the evolutionary scale, Dr. Grant and colleagues reported online Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

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