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Monday, September 20, 2010

The 'Homer Simpson gene' found

No kidding. A gene that makes mice dumber than they can potentially be and which also exists in humans (mice are very close relatives of us). Naturally the researchers have nicknamed it the "Homer Simpson gene".

The gene is techically known as RGS14 and is part of the CA2 region. Mice with the RGS14 gene knocked down (marvels of genetic engineering) surprisingly were much faster and effective than their normal cousins navigating mazes and overcoming obstacles. In other words: they were mice geniuses of sorts.

Naturally this finding begs a question:

why would we, or mice, have a gene that makes us less smart -- a Homer Simpson gene?

Good question. Scientists still do not know. I wonder if they should knock out that gene in themselves before the next research. Ok, sure, now I am kidding... or maybe not.

Why do we have a gene that makes us, it seems, dumber than we could potentially be. What advantages does stupidity confer?

Or does its absence cause some other kind of problems? Researchers speculate on some possible related issues (epileptic seizures, altered social behavior) but so far have not been able to find any clear correlation: the Homer Simpson gene makes you dumb and its absence does not seem to confer any disadvantage whatsoever.

So what's going on? Why hasn't this gene be selected against? Nobody knows... yet.

Source: Science Daily.

Ref. Sarah Emerson Lee et al., RGS14 is a natural suppressor of both synaptic plasticity in CA2 neurons and hippocampal-based learning and memory. PNAS 2010. Pay per view depending on where and when.

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