The nerve cells communicate with each other through synapses. From anomalies at these points of contact are at the origin of the nervous system diseases. It is usually about altered synaptic proteins or missing, compromising the entire communication mechanism. At the level of symptomatology, these nervous diseases can manifest themselves by mild symptoms or by disabilities the consequences of which can be serious and reduce life expectancy.
From neuroscientists from the University of Leipzig in collaboration with the University of Würzburg have highlighted a neuronal gene whose mutation would give a human being to the high intelligence quotient. This team of researchers conducted experiments on fruit flies to study the effects of this mutation on the synapses of their neurons.
They thus succeeded in proving that the mutation of a neuronal gene is certainly harmful to health, but it makes you smarter.
To better understand neuronal functions
Those two neurobiologists were interested in a particular mutation at the origin of the modification of a synaptic protein very important. They then studied the synaptic functions of these fruit flies for several years in order to better understand the mechanisms involved at the level of neural connections.
Generally, a gene mutation leads to serious illnesses, especially at the level of the nervous system. Indeed, these doctors have noticed in particular that patients with this genetic anomaly are all blind. And yet, despite this major disability, these people have a above average intelligence.
Fruit flies to study synaptic functions
These two German researchers, whose Professor Tobias Langenhan from the University of Leipzig and the Professor Manfred Heckmann from the University of Würzburg, are convinced that the mutation that involves the damaged protein contributed to improve synaptic communication patient neurons. This synaptic modification explains why these individuals are smarter than normal.
But like 75% of the genes responsible of the disease exist in fruit flies, it has been more practical to study them for understand the effects of this genetic anomaly, because it is difficult to observe the functioning of a human brain. They then have produces individuals carrying mutated genes to observe their neuronal activities through a technique called electrophysiology.