62. Shrinking Brains

22 Mar

FACT: Over the last 30,000 years the human brain has been shrinking. Today the average human brain is 10% smaller than 30,000 years ago. This is the same across all genders and all races; suddenly after 2 million years of brain and skull growth we have lost a chunk of brain the size of tennis ball.

Now it is far too easy to conclude from this that humans are becoming idiots, however that is simply not the case. Many scientists have, as per normal, many contrasting theories. Some claim that we don’t need to be as smart to survive, thanks to living with lots of other humans in cities.

Others even claim that in the past a bigger head was needed because a smaller head would cool down to quickly in the chilly paleolithic era. However one of the theories which merits the most attention is that the brain is becoming more efficient.

You must understand that 20% of all the energy in your body, is used by your brain, it is very power hungry and thusly reducing its volume will save us energy (as well as a considerable amount of water). Expanding upon this are other theories that say the brain itself is staying just as smart but is able to shrink and be just as intelligent.

Another theory states that we have developed a higher level of thinking than our ancestors which requires less energy but lets us understand more. Whatever your perspective this isn’t nearly over. The latest studies by Anthropologists suggest that while the brain has been shrinking, it is now growing larger again A most perplexing mystery indeed.



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2 responses to “62. Shrinking Brains

  1. Jack Kelle

    July 30, 2013 at 22:20

    Hey there,

    I’ve enjoyed your coverage the changing human brain. I recently just finished working on an infographic that looks at the shrinking human brain and explores interesting questions and statistics on the topic. I thought I would share it with you in the hopes you might make some use of it. Here’s the link:

    Best Wishes,

  2. Craig Tovey

    January 6, 2013 at 07:44

    Co-evolution with dogs is another theory to explain brain shrinkage. Dogs have smaller brains than wolves. (Likewise, domesticated cattle have smaller brains than their wild counterparts.) Humans domesticated wolves during the same era that our brains and their brains shrank. The theory is that we split up tasks with the wolf/dogs. For example, smelling was up to the dogs, so the part of our brain that processes odors was not as important as it had been. Therefore good odor detection was no longer selected for. On the contrary, individuals who “wasted” physical resources growing and maintaining olfactory capabilities would experience a slight negative selection effect.


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