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Human brain: Human intelligence linked to shift toward round brain

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Bright Idea From Sarah Sloat at Inverse:

To fully grasp how we evolved to become modern humans, scientists argue that we need to better understand our ancient ancestors’ brains. Adult human brains today are large and globular, but whether ancient human brains looked like that when our species first emerged has been subject to much speculation.

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology announced that the earliest Homo sapiens did not have globular brains like we have today. Instead, their brains had a shape intermediate between that of Homo erectus and that of the Neanderthals, both of which were somewhat more elongated horizontally. The brain, the authors write, gradually became globular over evolutionary time, and those changes in turn, induced neurological shifts that coincide with archaeological evidence of modern behavior.

Modern behavior, in this context, refers to actions like creating tools and art that represent the possession of abstract thought. Scientists call the period of their emergence the “human revolution,” dating it to the Middle to Upper Paleolithic eras, approximately 500,000 years ago. This new paper argues that this time wasn’t a reaction to some rapid evolutionary event, as scientists have thought before, but rather was “merely a point in time where gradual changes supported the full suite of modern behaviors.” More.

Would Neanderthal art be an argument against the theory? Or is it the sort of theory whose importance is its novelty among a host of competing speculations, whose sheer numbers count for progress?

See also: At Scientific American: “Cocktail of Brain Chemicals” may be key to what makes us human Hmmm. If we fed these cocktails to a gorilla’s brain, what would happen?

Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents


A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?


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