big brains

For humans, it’s pretty much crucial to be able to manage social interactions. Some scientists think that’s actually why we’re intelligent–that our ancestors evolved big brains because having a big brain meant you could navigate your social world better and have more babies. (That’s the essence of natural selection right there. The stuff that makes you have more babies is the stuff that sticks.)

You can’t really test this with primates in real life–you’d need thousands of years. But this week for ScienceNOW I wrote about an alternative: a computer simulation of brain evolution. Science writers generally stay away from modeling papers, but I thought this one was worth writing about.

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2 Responses to big brains

  1. Steve Betz says:

    I saw an article last year about how scientists had measured the cranial volume of dogs and cats over evolution and showed a remarkable increase in the size of dog brains since they were domesticated by humans — the authors hypothesized that this was because domesticated dogs have had to figure out the human social network of interactions.

    Cat brains also grew, but much less so than dogs — reinforcing that cats don’t give a crap about people… ;)

  2. Helen says:

    Wow, that is cool!