Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Be Smart

1)  Be descended from Neanderthals:
"The genes for red hair and pale skin didn't match well enough to show a correlation, but I found a correlation for genes linked to other traits. There's a gene cluster linked to advanced mathematics skills, information processing, logic, analytical intelligence, concentration skills, obsession–compulsion and Asperger's syndrome. That cluster correlates very strongly. I can trace some genes back to the interglacial around 450,000 years ago, and others back to another burst of evolutionary innovation during the Eemian interglacial about 130,000 years ago." She rambled on with endless details.

Something wasn't right. She was linking genes for advanced mental skills to Neanderthals. "I'm confused," I said when she paused for a breath. "You're correlating genes linked to modern human intelligence with Neanderthal populations. What am I missing?"

"You didn't want to hear me, I knew that."

"No, I want to hear you. I just asked a question."

"You don't, because I already told you."

I looked at Beth blankly, realizing I was missing a key part of the puzzle. "You said these were Neanderthal genes?"

"Yes, they were," she said. "They weren't in the modern human genome until Neanderthals interbred with Cro-Magnons between 25,000 and 30,000 years ago."

"Advanced mathematical processing? Shouldn't that have been missing from the Neanderthal genome?"

"No, I found that Neanderthals lacked genes linked to successful socialization and management skills. They could count perfectly well, but they couldn't deal with groups. Socialization genes came from Sapiens"

"You're trying to tell me ..." I said, but my mental censor blocked the idea.

"That human mathematical intelligence came from Neanderthals? That's what the data say. The Cro-Magnons had the social skills. But that isn't all."

I stared at her. I couldn't tell that to the research council.

As usual, she couldn't read the warning look on my face. "The hybridization was successful in the Stone Age, but the environment has changed. I found that modern culture selects for socialization but against the Neanderthal traits for mathematics and intelligence," she said, and looked down. "I don't know how you'll survive when our genes are gone."
2)  Take drugs
Professor Carla Shatz of Stanford University and her colleagues have discovered a way to revert an adult brain to the “plastic”, child-like state that is more able to form new connections quickly.  The technical term “plastic” implies the ability to adapt or shape itself to new conditions.  The striking results were revealed through experiments on a protein expressed in brain cells known as PirB (this is the name of the protein in the animal model, in humans it is called “LilrB2″), which seems to stabilize neural connections.

Stability protects against loss of learned skills or information, but at the same time hampers the acquisition of new ones.  The scientists found that interfering with the normal function of the neuron-stability molecule PirB had the remarkable effect of reverting at least one part of the brain to a more malleable state that could easily recover from damage, rewire itself and learn new skills.  The study is exciting for not only its therapeutic implications, but also for the emerging field of brain and cognition-enhancing drugs.
3)  Don't catch the liberal virus:
A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US.

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