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Human development was based around increasing brain neurons

By Tim Sandle     Aug 17, 2016 in Science
Vanderbilt - Size matters when it comes to human evolution, although the advancement in cognitive thinking owes more to the concentration of neurons than it does to the size of the brain, according to a new study.
Research conducted by Suzana Herculano-Houzel of Vanderbilt University has charted the evolution of the amount of neurons that have developed in the pre-frontal cortex. According to Dr. Herculano-Houzel, neurons were the key driver in human development.
The concentration of neurons is not the same as brain size. Non-human primates, for example, have similar brain sizes to humans. What differs, Laboratory Roots reports, are the number of neurons, especially those relating to the pre-front cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is part of the brain involved with activities like abstract thinking, detailed planning of tasks and decision making.
Dr. Herculano-Houzel explains: “People need to drop the idea that the human brain is exceptional. Our brain is basically a primate brain. Because it is the largest primate brain, it does have one distinctive feature: it has the highest number of cortical neurons of any primate.”
Explaining the details, Dr. Herculano-Houzel notes that humans have 16 billion neurons compared with around nine billion neurons in gorillas and orang-utans. At an evolutionary juncture, Dr. Herculano-Houzel is of the view that human neuron development was advanced by cooking and food preparation. The researcher has undertaken an intensive study on the following primates: pig-tailed and crab-eating macaques, baboons, marmosets, galagos, owl monkeys and capuchins.
Robin (@robin_grant_85) "Total number of neurons -- not enlarged prefrontal region -- hallmark of human brain… wow! ."
This not only relates to the complexity of cooking but the process that led to people extracting more calories and nutrients from food. Raw food is harder to digest and often fewer nutrients can be extracted (contrary to the thoughts of raw food advocates). It is also a two-way process for a bigger brain requires more energy.
An increase in the number of neurons led humans to develop better cognition, reasoning and thinking skills.
Dr. Herculano-Houzel’s research is outlined in a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled “No relative expansion of the number of prefrontal neurons in primate and human evolution.”
More about Human evolution, Brains, Neurons, People, Primates
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