"Unertan syndrome" in two Turkish families in relation to devolution and emergence of homo erectus: Neurological examination, MRI, and PET scans

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Tan U., Pence S.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, vol.118, no.3, pp.313-336, 2008 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 118 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/00207450701667766
  • Page Numbers: pp.313-336


"Unertan syndrome" consists of two main symptoms: quadrupedal gait and primitive cognitive abilities including language and conscious experience. To assess the central mechanisms involved in this syndrome, the authors performed MRI and PET scans on affected and unaffected individuals from both families. All affected individuals were also subjected to neurological examination. To assess the integrity of the peripheral and central vestibular system, Barany's caloric test was applied to the affected individuals. Brain MRI and PET scans were performed on normal subjects (n = 7) and patients (n = 7). Right- and leff-cerebral and cerebellar areas, including the vermial and callosal areas, were measured on the MRI scans using a computer cursor. Quadrupedal gait, mental retardation, dysartric speech, nystagmus, severe truncal ataxia, hyperreflexia, astasia, and abasia were observed in the affected individuals from both families. Cerebellum and vermis were atrophic in the MRI and PET scans of the first family. In contrast, the brain MRI seemed to be normal in the MRI and PET scans of affected individuals from the second family. The caloric test revealed central vestibular damage in patients from the first family and peripheral vestibular damage in patients from the second family. The results suggest that "Unertan syndrome," discovered in two unrelated families, may be caused by peripheral or central vestibular damage resulting from different genetic defects. Cerebellar hypoplasia may not be a prerequisite for the emergence of this syndrome. Primitive mental abilities may be explained by damage within the vestibulo-cerebellar system, whereas the quadrupedal gait may be due to a genetic defect within the higher brain centers that suppress the atavistic brain networks controlling quadrupedal gait and helped in the emergence of the habitual bipedal gait during human evolution. This retarded development of human locomotion-devolution-may illuminate the brain mechanisms responsible for the transition from quadrupedality to bipedality in human evolution.