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Neanderthal DNA Influences Modern Human Behavior Subtly

Update Date: Feb 12, 2016 02:48 PM EST

Scientists found in 2010 that Eurasians contain about 1 to 4 percent of Neanderthal DNA in their bodies. Researchers worked out a number of hypotheses regarding the effects of these genetic inheritances on human behavior. It is only recently that a new study by Vanderbilt University scientists validates that those with European ancestry have Neanderthal genetics in their bodies that exercise a subtle influence on modern humans too.

"Our main finding is that Neanderthal DNA does influence clinical traits in modern humans: We discovered associations between Neanderthal DNA and a wide range of traits, including immunological, dermatological, neurological, psychiatric and reproductive diseases," John Capra, senior author of the paper, said in a press release.

Check the findings online ahead of their Feb. 12,2015 release in Science.

The Neanderthal DNA variants have an impact on skin biology, the risk of skin lesions, nicotine addiction as well as depression---some with positive and some with negative impact.

"The brain is incredibly complex, so it's reasonable to expect that introducing changes from a different evolutionary path might have negative consequences," said Corinne Simonti, first author of the study.

The genetic associations in the research indicate that the modern human population contains Neanderthal DNA that had some advantage 40,000 years ago when there was some migration into non-African environments. These had various kinds of pathogens and sun exposure.

Still, these adaptations have less advantage today. For example, blood coagulation helped ancestors to cope with new pathogens and seal wounds quickly to stop them from entering our bodies. However, today, hypercoagulation increases the risk of "stroke, pulmonary embolism, and complications during pregnancy," according to scientists.

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