What the archaeological and fossil records have not been able to bring to light, artificial intelligence and the analysis of genetic data using algorithms have shown. A team led by Coral del Val and Igor Zwir, both from the University of Granada (UGR), has carried out an investigation that identifies the genotype differences between the Homo sapiens, the modern man, the Homo neanderthalensis, the Neanderthal, and the chimpanzees. And the difference is in a set of 267 genes in charge of creativity and self-awareness that researchers have described as “determining” when defining survival of children. sapiens versus Neanderthals, who disappeared approximately 40,000 years ago.
The common lineage of modern man and Neanderthals dates back 500,000 years. It was later, between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, that Neanderthals emerged and, later, the Homo sapiens. The latter had from the beginning a morphology similar to the current one, compared to the former, much more physically robust. On the other hand, it was in a later period when the sapiens they adopted modern human behavior (sociability, language, …). Neanderthals and sapiens shared a long period on Earth and even reached hybridize, to mix, approximately 100,000 years ago, until 60,000 years later some disappeared and the others survived. One of the reasons for such survival against each other is what researchers and artificial intelligence have discovered: a network of genes in charge of creativity that, consequently, gave modern humans the ability to have abstract thinking, the desire to be sociable and, ultimately, greater resilience to adversity. Igor Zwir has described creativity, in the sense of his research, as “the secret weapon of the current human being to survive the nearby hominids with whom he lived for a long time”.
These genes gave humans the ability to have abstract thinking, a desire to be sociable, and a greater ability to resist adversity.
Coral del Val and Igor Zwir have been working on algorithms applied to biology and health since 2005, long before it was a union blessed by the scientific community. Those algorithms have given you some interesting results before now. In 2014, for example, they discovered that schizophrenia was not a single disease, but a group of eight genetically diverse disorders. Later, it allowed them to identify genes related to temperament and character. Del Val explains that it is “a group of 972 genes distributed in three networks, with little relationship between them and that have emerged in a staggered manner in the evolution of hominids.” The first network, “the most primitive”, he says, “emerged 40 million years ago and is responsible for giving emotional responses. It regulates the impulses, the learning of habits, the social attachment and the resolution of conflicts ”. That is shared by chimpanzees, Neanderthals, and modern humans.
The second network, which appeared two million years ago, already shows differences between these three groups. “It is in charge of self-control and is related to cooperation for mutual benefit,” continues Del Val. The third network, which emerged about 100,000 years ago, is exclusive to the Homo sapiens. There are 267 genes that, according to Del Val, “gave abstract thinking to sapiens, which, among other things, gives them greater resilience in the face of uncertainty. Those genes also made him more sociable ”. These genes creative, he explained from Germany, where he is currently researching, are “regulators, and are found in regions of the brain recognized for their relationship with creativity and health.” This network of just 300 genes is a small part of the approximately 30,000, “according to the accounting method,” clarifies Del Val, who has the human being.
Sociability, the researcher continues, “is a strong cognitive advantage; for example, it generates larger coexistence groups and gives young people and adolescents more time and possibilities to learn from each other ”. From there arises, in addition, “the desire for cooperation and altruism that, finally, bring with them an important technological innovation”. Del Val remembers that the Neanderthals already had certain technology, but that the leap that was made in this area with the Homo sapiens is awesome”. These genes not only triggered creativity, but increased resilience and fostered divergent thinking, a means of problem solving that allows finding several different options, through intuitive connections between what could be considered isolated thoughts to finally select one. of those solutions. It also provided, according to the researchers, greater physical fitness, understood as greater resistance to aging, injury and disease.
The group of researchers led by Coral del Val and Igor Zwir is made up of other scientists from the University of Granada as well as, among others, Ian Tattersall, paleobiologist at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the world’s great specialists in Neanderthals; and by CR Cloninger, psychiatrist and geneticist author of the most widely used temperament and character test to evaluate these two factors. Researchers have resorted to open genome databases and have used genomic samples from more than 2,000 current individuals, of different nationalities and cultures ―to avoid cultural and environmental biases in the samples―; as well as various genomes of Neanderthals from the Max Plank Institute, and of chimpanzees, through open databases. The research is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, from the Nature group, among the top 10 in the ranking of scientific publications in the field of psychiatry, mental health and molecular and cellular neuroscience.
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