How Did Human Brain Evolve to Reach This Size? Researchers Found a Surprising Answer

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Why do we have big brains? You might have asked yourself this question, and many scientists have had the same questions. But when researchers asked a computer this question, they were surprised to see a different answer than previous theories.

Looking at the human body, the brain is huge related to the size. It should normally be six times smaller than it is. Being this big, it also eats almost 20% of the energy of our body.

Evolutionary Theories

Some of the theories argue that there must be a good reason why the human body has a big brain. But what is that reason? In the past, scientists believe that it had to do with apes that live in social groups and have bigger brains.

But a new study running a computer simulation shows a different side of the story. Mauricio Gonzalez-Forero and Andy Gardner are researchers at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They have recently published a report in the journal Nature, showing new data.

On the computer, researchers simulated a population of females and followed them to see what happens as they face new challenges. The data provided by the researchers to the population was things like small brain size, energy costs of the brain and the reproductive organs to specify the sex. Then, they started simulating tasks that were either social or environmental challenges – tasks that were all part of the theory of the brain evolution.

The computer analyzed all the information and started processing how the challenges affect the brain size. It calculated how much energy females have to spend in growing their brain in different challenges. Then, the final result showed that bigger brains were related to a strong mental demand.

Facing Environmental Challenges – The Main Cause in Brain Development

Social connection increased the size of the brain, but it had a smaller impact than expected. The computer calculated that 60% of the increase in the brain size was because the individual was dealing with the environment, completing tasks like finding food, storing and cooking it and creating tools. The rest of 30% of the increase in size was due to cooperating with other individuals to hunt. The final 10% was from competing with other groups of people.

The study isn’t the final word on how brains evolved, but it encourages researchers to study this matter in depth. Other scientists are a bit skeptical on the new conclusions, arguing that language was a main cause of the brain development.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere