Scientists discover new mechanism controlling brain size

International research headed by Danish Scientists has taken an important step forward in understanding the complex mechanisms that control development of the so-called cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain that play a key role in attention, perception, awareness, thought, memory, language, and consciousness. The results have just been published in the internationally recognized journal Nature Communications.

The scientists started with genetic analyses of a large family in which children were born with primary microcephaly; a rare congenital brain disorder characterized by a reduction in the size of the cerebral cortex and varying degree of cognitive dysfunction. The scientists found that the children were carriers of a mutation in both copies of the gene, RRP7A, and by the use of stem cell cultures as well as zebrafish as model organism, RRP7A was shown to play a critical role for brain stem cells to proliferate and form new neurons. This process is extremely complex and slight disturbances may have serious consequences, which may explain why the mutation affects the brain and no other tissues and organs.