Events

Seminar Series

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 3:30 PM

PRESENTATION STUDIO AT SFU'S BIG DATA HUB, ASB 10900

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Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Vanderbilt University

The human advantage: a new understanding of how our brains became remarkable

Humans are awesome. Our brains are gigantic, seven times larger than they should be for the size of our bodies, consume 25% of all the energy the body requires each day, and became enormous in a very short amount of time in evolution, leaving our cousins, the great apes, behind. So the human brain is special, right?

Wrong – and this talk will cover a series of recent findings that paint a different picture. Humans have indeed evolved cognitive abilities that outstrip those of all other animals, but not because we are evolutionary outliers, and simply because we benefit from a fortunate conjunction of two factors: we are primates, with a primate-typical brain full of neurons; and our ancestors came up with one of the earliest technologies, one that changed our evolutionary course – cooking. Thanks to the extra calories afforded by modifying what we eat, we are the species with the largest number of neurons in the cerebral cortex, which, this talk will argue, is the simplest (though certainly not the only) biological basis for our cognitive advantage.

For more information: http://www.suzanaherculanohouzel.com/lab