A study led by researchers at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Brain Science lays out a “parts list” for the brain, including a detailed look at the differences between the parts for human brains and mouse brains.
They say the genetic results, published today in the journal Nature, suggest that relying on mice to study how the brains of men and women work could lead neuroscientists down blind alleys.
“The answer may be that you have to go to species that are more similar to humans,” Ed Lein, an investigator at the Allen Institute who’s also affiliated with the University of Washington, told GeekWire.
It’s not that the basic parts list is all that different: The researchers found that most of the 75 different cell types identified in the human brain, based on genetic makeup, are found in the mouse brain as well.
That commonality applies even to cells that the scientists had previously thought might be uniquely human, such as the “rosehip neurons” discovered last year.
But there are significant differences in the way those genes are expressed — differences that have developed over 75 million years of evolution. “The genes themselves haven’t really changed, but their regulation can change a lot,” Lein said.