In what is arguably an ethically controversial study, a team of scientists in China have inserted a gene involved in human brain development into the genomes of monkeys. In follow-up experiments, they tested whether the modified monkeys performed better than their control peers in cognitive tasks. The study is published in the journal National Science Review.
Scientists inserted the human gene MCPH1 into 11 rhesus monkeys, five of which survived long enough to have their mental abilities tested. According to the team’s findings, the transgenic monkeys did better on memory tests and reaction time trials compared to the non-gene-edited group.
In one such memory test, the monkeys were required to remember the color and shape of a stimulus that popped up on the screen for a specified amount of time. “Remarkably, our preliminary cognitive test detected an improved short-term memory in the [transgenic] monkeys,” wrote the team.