At Emory University, scientists discovered a gene in mice that, when removed, actually makes the animals smarter. They’re calling it the “Homer Simpson gene.”
Deleting a certain gene in mice can make them smarter by unlocking a mysterious region of the brain considered to be relatively inflexible, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found.
Mice with a disabled RGS14 gene are able to remember objects they’d explored and learn to navigate mazes better than regular mice, suggesting that RGS14’s presence limits some forms of learning and memory.
The “Homer” gene is also found in humans, but scientists are cautious. It’s located in an area of the brain that relatively little is known about.
Homer didn’t want to be a lazy slob who ate doughnuts and drank Duff beer. There had to be some reason for the gene that made him that way, according to Dr. John Hepler, a professor of pharmacology at Emory’s School of Medicine.
“A big question this research raises is why would we, or mice, have a gene that makes us less smart—a Homer Simpson gene?” Hepler says. “I believe that we are not really seeing the full picture. RGS14 may be a key control gene in a part of the brain that, when missing or disabled, knocks brain signals important for learning and memory out of balance.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the mice are adversely affected by the removal of the “Homer” gene over time.