Anthropology and Human Genetics

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Evolution of human brain size

Especially in collaboration with the group of Wieland Huttner (MPI-CBG, Dresden), we investigate whether genes involved in the proliferation and differentiation of neural progenitors, e.g. those associated with human microcephaly, played a role in the evolution of larger brains in humans and primates.


  • Transgenic mouse models
  • RNA-Seq
  • Evolutionary sequence analyses

Relevant publications

Enard, W. (2014). Comparative genomics of brain size evolution. Frontiers in human neuroscience 8, 345.

Fietz, S.A., Lachmann, R., Brandl, H., Kircher, M., Samusik, N., Schroder, R., Lakshmanaperumal, N., Henry, I., Vogt, J., Riehn, A., Distler, W., Nitsch, R., Enard, W., Paabo, S., and Huttner, W.B. (2012). Transcriptomes of germinal zones of human and mouse fetal neocortex suggest a role of extracellular matrix in progenitor self-renewal. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, 11836-11841,

Pulvers, J.N., Bryk, J., Fish, J.L., Wilsch-Brauninger, M., Arai, Y., Schreier, D., Naumann, R., Helppi, J., Habermann, B., Vogt, J., Nitsch, R., Toth, A., Enard, W., Paabo, S., and Huttner, W.B. (2010). Mutations in mouse Aspm (abnormal spindle-like microcephaly associated) cause not only microcephaly but also major defects in the germline. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107, 16595-16600,

Timpson, N., Heron, J., Smith, G.D., and Enard, W. (2007). Comment on papers by Evans et al. and Mekel-Bobrov et al. on Evidence for Positive Selection of MCPH1 and ASPM. Science 317, 1036; author reply 1036.

Fish, J.L., Kosodo, Y., Enard, W., Paabo, S., and Huttner, W.B. (2006). Aspm specifically maintains symmetric proliferative divisions of neuroepithelial cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103, 10438-10443,

Woods, C.G., Bond, J., and Enard, W. (2005). Autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH): a review of clinical, molecular, and evolutionary findings. Am J Hum Genet 76, 717-728,