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Emo Bear

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Can we find and turn on genes in animals that expand and accelerate brain growth?

How many years would it take to double an animal's brain size and mass?

With much larger brains, will animals understand language one day? I can talkz to ma kitteh?

Once our pets and other animals understand language (meaning they are capable of learning), will they join us in the monetary system — earning a paycheck and contributing to society? Or will we make them our slaves and give them all our harsh labour?

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Closing Statement from Emo Bear

I got an interesting email from this conversation:

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Genes related to brain growth

Hello,
I'm contacting you in relation to the conversation thread you started about the talk "Building a dinosaur from a chicken".

Genes indirectly responsible for brain growth have been found in the human genome, namely the Highly Conserved Deletion (hConDel) number 332. This sequence acts on the gene GADD45G which normally inhibit neuron production. However the human variant of hConDel332 is completely absent, meaning that it doesn't activate the gene GADD45G and so neuron production isn't heavily regulated *1.

But it won't be enough to confer proto-human intelligence to animals, as we'll also need at least :
- the gene LAMC3, regulating the folding of the cerebral cortex during embryo-genesis*2.
- the FOXp2 gene, for the development of the vocal cords and cerebral areas dedicated to language
- the HACNS1 enhancer, regulating the formation of the wrists, ankles, hips, throat and especially the thumb *3.

*1 McLean et al. ”Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human-specific traits”
Nature,471:216-219, 2011
*2 Barak T. et al. ”Recessive LAMC3 mutations cause malformations of occipital cortical development
Nature Genetics, 43:590-594, 2011
*3 Prabhakar et al. ”Human-Specific Gain of Function in a Developmental Enhancer”
Science, 321(5894):1346-1350, 2008

Cordially,
Pr. Théodose

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    Jun 20 2011: You know, it is not just brain size, which makes (some of ) Homo sapiens smart:

    "The average Neandertal brain was actually somewhat larger than the brains of most people today."
    http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_2.htm

    Very good book on what makes us different from, and similar to, other animals is:
    The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How Our Animal Heritage Affects the Way We Live http://goo.gl/h2DGP
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    Jun 19 2011: Given a dog/cat's morphology, a bigger brain might be incredibly hard to carry. You probably would want to get them standing up so their head could be carried by the rest of the body before you make their brains bigger. And that's only one of many requirements.
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    Jun 18 2011: Why? What is the objective? Our dog already contributes to our family society, giving more than he takes. Judging by his wagging tail he is very happy with his situation.
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      Jun 19 2011:  
       
      What if a dog could tell us he or she is not feeling well instantly, in our spoken language, instead of having us to guess and find out later?