The cerebellum – region of the brain that coordinates our movements – may have played a crucial role in evolution of human, new study shows.
The core function of the cerebellum is to help us coordinate voluntary movements. But, a new study at Duke University has revealed the region may have undergone evolutionary changes that have to do much more than its role in regulating our motor skills.
Much of the attribution for executive functions, such as moral reasoning and decision making is given to the prefrontal cortex, and now the cerebellum has lately been fuelling curiosity among the researchers for its unheralded involvement in cognitive function.
The cerebellum (highlighted) may have played a key role in human evolution [Image credit: dana.org]. In the study, the team looked at the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex in humans, chimpanzees and rhesus macaque monkeys. Then they assessed which part of the genomes from both brain regions had the methyl group attached to them.
DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that modulates the function of genetic materials, thereby affecting how our genes express. Studying the patterns of this methylation helps differentiate active and inactive genes in a species. They are different for different body parts and vary among species.