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DNA Clues to Our Kind: Regulatory gene linked to human evolution

A gene that exerts wide-ranging effects on the brain works harder in people than it does in chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates, a DNA disparity that apparently contributed to the evolution of Homo sapiens, according to a new study.

The gene participates in production of prodynorphin, an opiumlike protein that serves as a building block for chemical messengers in the brain known as endorphins. Studies have implicated endorphins in the anticipation and experience of pain, in the formation of intimate emotional bonds with others, and in learning and memory.

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