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The genetic origins of learning and memory go back 650 million years

The genetic origins of learning and memory go back 650 million years

summary: Researchers have discovered genes essential for learning, memory, aggression and other complex behaviors that arose about 650 million years ago.

The study used computational methods to trace the evolutionary history of these genes involved in the production, modification, and reception of monoamines such as serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. This discovery suggests that this new way of modulating neural circuits could have played a role in the Cambrian Explosion, contributing to the diversification of life.

The findings provide new research avenues for understanding the origins of complex behaviors and their relationship to processes as diverse as reward, addiction, aggressiveness, feeding and sleep.

Key facts:

  1. Genes essential for learning, memory, aggression and other complex behaviors arose about 650 million years ago.
  2. These genes are involved in the production, modification, and reception of monoamines such as serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline.
  3. This discovery may have implications for understanding the Cambrian Explosion, the period of rapid diversification of life forms on Earth.

source: University of Leicester

A team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Leicester discovered that the genes required for learning, memory, aggression and other complex behaviors arose around 650 million years ago.

The findings, which were led by Dr Roberto Viuda, of the Neurogenetics group in the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology and other colleagues from the University of Leicester and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), are published in Nature Communications.

Dr Fyoda said: “We have long known that monoamines such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline act as neuromodulators in the nervous system, playing a role in behavior and complex functions such as learning and memory, as well as processes such as sleep and feeding.

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However, the source of the genes required for the production, detection and degradation of these monoamines was less certain.

Using computational methods, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of these genes and showed that most of the genes involved in monoamine production, modification, and reception arose in the diploid stem group.

“This discovery has profound implications for the evolutionary origin of complex behaviors such as those modified by monoamines that we observe in humans and other animals.”

The authors suggest that this new way of modulating neural circuits may have played a role in the Cambrian Explosion – better known as the Big Bang – which led to the greatest diversity of life for most primate groups alive today by providing plasticity to neural circuits to facilitate interaction with the environment.

“This discovery will open important new research avenues that will elucidate the origin of complex behaviors and if neurons themselves modulate reward, addiction, aggressiveness, feeding and sleep,” added Dr. Viuda.

About this genetics and memory and learn research news

author: Fiona Dryden
source: University of Leicester
communication: Fiona Dryden – University of Leicester
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

Original search: open access.
The Monoamine System is a binary innovationWritten by Roberto Viuda et al. Nature Communications


a summary

The Monoamine System is a binary innovation

Monoamines such as serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline/noradrenaline (epinephrine/norepinephrine) act as neuromodulators in the nervous system. They play a role in complex behaviors and cognitive functions such as learning and memory formation, as well as basic homeostasis processes such as sleep and feeding.

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However, the evolutionary origin of the genes required for monoamine modification is uncertain.

Using a phylogenetic approach, in this study, we showed that most of the genes involved in monoamine production, modification, and reception arose in the diploid stem group.

This indicates that the monoamine system is a binary novelty and that its evolution may have contributed to Cambrian diversification.