It’s never a compliment to be called a “birdbrain” or a “peabrain.” But does brain size even matter? According to researchers from the University of Southern California, it might.
In a new study published Monday in Nature Neuroscience, scientists scanned 32, 438 adults in one of the biggest studies to date in the ongoing research to better understand the human brain. The researchers, led by study author Paul Thompson, identified five new gene ‘hubs’ in the brain that predict brain growth and potential. Brains reach their maximum size usually when a person is in their early 20s. And, although the scientists are still unclear on an optimal brain size, they agree that brains that are too large or too small may cause abnormal cognitive development.
“The genes underlying brain development have far-reaching effects that extend well beyond the initial years of life. You have genes that are beneficial for you and help build brain structures early in life. Yet some of these are harmful later in life and promote diseases such as Parkinson’s,” said Thompson. “This research is on the leading edge of cracking the brain’s genetic code. Millions of people carry variations in their DNA that help boost or lower their brains’ susceptibility to a vast range of diseases. Once we identify these genes, we can target them with drugs to reduce the risk of disease. People also can take preventive steps through exercise, diet and mental stimulation to erase the effects of a bad gene.”