Starting with 14,042 genetic variants unique to modern humans, the researchers found 407 that specifically contribute to differences in gene expression between modern and archaic humans. In further analysis, they determined that the differences were more likely to be associated with the vocal tract and the cerebellum, which is the part of our brain that receives sensory information and controls voluntary movement, including walking, coordination, balance and speech.
“It just seems so implausible that you could make a call like, ‘I think the voice box evolved,’ from the information we have,”
said Dmitri Petrov, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, who is co-senior author of the paper with Gokhman and Nadav Ahituv, a professor of bioengineering at UCSF.
“The predictions are almost science fiction. If five years ago, somebody told me that this would be possible, I would not have put much money on it.”
I wonder what the timing of these changes might be.