If ever I have encountered a better premise and set-up for a gloriously cheesy Sci-Fi Horror flick, I cannot remember it. Scientists are growing little blobs of Neanderthal brains. What could possibly go wrong? And they’ve found that Neanderthal DNA, when introduced, can alter human brain tissue. This just keeps getting better! A virus that carries Neanderthal DNA, transmitted by bite, that invades and overrides the brains of victims and slowly turns them into killer cavemen! Or the brains used for the experiment could escape from their jars in the lab and start moving around on their own, like the brain creatures in FIEND WITHOUT A FACE or THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS! I want to see this movie!
In actuality, this is solid Science at work. Scientists created those little blobs of brain tissue and added a Neanderthal gene that the Neanderthals carried but that we, Homo sapiens, do not. The point is to be able to tell just how different our brains are from theirs. Or, as “neuroarchaeologist” Alysson Muotri, director of the Stem Cell Program at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, put it: “The question here is what makes us human. Why are our brains so different from other species including our own extinct relatives?”
So what have they learned so far? “[With the] neurons in the [mutant Neanderthal mini-brains] we see more activity in the very early stages than the modern human ones. We were definitely not expecting that…A baby chimpanzee can outsmart a human newborn by far. We need time to nurture our babies until they become independent. We don’t see that in other species. I think what we’re seeing here is something similar.”
In short, those little Neanderthal blob brains are smarter.