Making Bigger Brains

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick's stories have been used in more movies than those of any other writer: Bladerunner, Total Recall and Paycheck are all derived from his stories. Scientists are now taking a page out of his books. In his 1964 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, people could actually get more brains if they wanted to be smarter. A procedure called E Therapy was performed to increase the size of their brains:

The man's head reminded Hnatt of a photograph he had once seen in a textbook; the photo had been labeled hydrocephalic. The same enlargement above the browline; it was clearly domelike and oddly fragile-looking and he saw at once why these well-to-do persons who had evolved were popularly called bubbleheads. (Read more about bubbleheads)

Some day soon, you may get your wish to be brainier. According to researchers at MIT, a single gene and its growth-promoting protein (CPG15) may be used to develop therapies for renewing damaged or diseased brain tissue.

"CPG15 is one of the few molecules shown to be essential for survival of specific stem cell populations in the developing brain," the researchers report. "...CPG15 allows the progenitor pool (of cells) to expand, and even modest changes in the size of the progenitor pool during its exponential growth phase can drastically affect the final size and shape of the cortex."

Over-expressing CPG-15 in rats gives them bigger brains; these enlarged brains have grooves and furrows like evolved mammalian brains with larger surface areas.

In another recent study performed at Harvard, the beta-catenin gene in selected mice was engineered to exhibit increased activity; the mouse brains grew to almost double the usual size. The cerebral cortex, seat of intelligence and language, became more human like.

(Normal mouse brain (left) grows 40 percent and
develops human-like folds:
from Genes found that regulate brain size)

Interested in brains? You might enjoy these previous SF in the News stories: Mouse with human brain may live and Brain 'pacemaker' for depression sufferers. Read more about Researchers identify gene involved in building brains and Genes found that regulate brain size. (Thanks to Winchell Chung for the tip on this story.)

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)