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Braindance: New Discoveries About Human Origins And Brain Evolution (Revised And Updated) By Dean Falk

2073 words - 8 pages

Braindanceby: Dean FalkIn her book, Braindance, Dean Falk attempts to give an explanation as to how the larger brain size in modern hominins came to be. She discusses early hominins such as Lucy, the first australopithecine ever discovered from Taung, South Africa, and compares different fossil skull endocasts to the skulls of living primates, including humans. Her research looks to prove why the "brain size in living humans is three times larger than it was in our hominin relatives who lived more than three million years ago" (Falk, 29). Her main hypothesis is that brain size has to do with a blood drainage and circulation system that would allow for proper cooling of a large, heat-generating organ, such as the brain of the modern Homo sapien. Thus, the variation and natural selection that has occurred in Australopithecus and specimens belonging to the genus Homo has allowed for a bigger brain because it could be properly cooled.In her research, Dean Falk referred to studies on living primates such as chimpanzees to see the differences and similarities in their relationship with humans, which share a common ancestor. These findings served to give a better understanding of the relationship between the brain of modern Homo sapiens and our earlier hominin ancestors and highlight those aspects of human behavior that separate us from other living primates (Goodall, 207). Although chimpanzees have a cranial capacity of about 400 cubic centimeters, and humans have a cranial capacity of about 1400 cubic centimeters (Zihlman, 5-18), the outward appearance of the brains of humans, chimpanzees, and other primates appear to have all the same parts. However, when comparing the intelligence of modern humans to the intelligence of a chimpanzee, for example, we see that chimps do have a sense of "I" or self, but they cannot plan ahead in the way that humans can nor can they associate separate concepts and come to complex conclusions in the way that humans do. And even though chimpanzees and other primates demonstrate human-like behavior such as affection, enduring bonds, childhood dependency, and tool-making (Goodall, 206), Falk poses the question as to what in the human brain makes them more intelligent than any other primate, or any other living organism for that matter. "Comparative neuroanatomists have repeatedly touched upon three separate themes in explaining the unique features of the human brain: evolution of the frontal lobes, the relative amount of association cortex across the entire brain, and the extent of differences between the right and left hemispheres, or brain lateralization. To oversimplify, the first theme is implicated with planning ahead and personality factors, the second with the ability to put things together in a meaningful way, and the third with participation in the arts and sciences" (Falk, 58). Falk's understanding of the relationship between the size of the brain to its intelligence led her to study fossil endocasts in...

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