November 17, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

In Brains, It’s Quality, Not Quantity, that Counts

Most anthropologists are obsessed with brain size.  How many cc’s (cubic centimeters) of brain could fit in the skull of this or that hominid?  PhysOrg reminds us that “Bigger not necessarily better, when it comes to brains.”  Here’s a shocker from scientists at Queen Mary University: “Tiny insects could be as intelligent as much bigger animals, despite only having a brain the size of a pinhead.”
    The article describes the brain range: from pinhead sizes in insects to the 9kg computers in whales.  What we don’t often think about it is that not all that matter is devoted to intelligence.  Some of it is redundant, or offers refinement of existing functions.  A large animal may need more brain because it has more body to control.  One researcher said, “To use a computer analogy, bigger brains might in many cases be bigger hard drives, not necessarily better processors.”  There’s no reason a high degree of intelligence could not fit in a very small space.

It’s not the hardware; it’s the programming.  And with human brains, as with computers, no amount of good programming can compensate for a stupid user.

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Categories: Early Man, Human Body

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