BDNF, endurance activity, and mechanisms underlying the evolution of hominin brains

The goal of this paper is to identify and tie multiple physiological mechanisms into a more elaborate, integrative model linking endurance capacity to encephalization in humans

Tyler Hill; John D. Polk


Scholarcy highlights

  • That humans have absolutely and relatively larger brains than do other primates and most other mammals is well established
  • One exception is the model proposed by Raichlen and Polk, who suggested that selection acting on aerobic capacity upregulated particular pathways that contribute to brain growth
  • While this review focuses on brain-derived neurotrophic factor, we acknowledge the importance of other factors and pathways for further investigation
  • We contend that selection favoring endurance activity during human evolution produced changes in muscle physiology and energy budgets mediated by PPARGC1A and MEF2 families of genes
  • These changes resulted in prolonged high expression of these genes resulting in prolonged high expression of BDNF, compared to other species
  • We argue that the evolution of hairlessness and thermoregulatory changes in the skin have neural consequences via both UV-promoted synthesis of glutamate, and by regulatory effects of NO on BDNF
  • There are many avenues for testing these and related hypotheses

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