I’m pretty sure I didn’t much care when I found out the truth about Santa, or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. But I have to say, this one stings a little. No more can I claim to my husband that because my head is much bigger than his, I must have a bigger brain, and therefore, obviously be much smarter than he is. No, some scientist somewhere had to go and ruin it all.
The November 17 issue of the journal Current Biology conducted a study that reveals a lot about the brain previously unknown. The study focuses on the idea that even the tiniest of insects could be just as intelligent as a much larger creature – apparently size doesn’t really matter after all. So if you think about it, that means the bugs you step on when you’re walking down the street may actually be plotting something big. You better watch your step.
“In bigger brains we often don’t find more complexity, just an endless repetition of the same neural circuits over and over. This might add detail to remembered images or sounds, but not add any degree of complexity,” said Lars Chittka, a professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary, University of London. “To use a computer analogy, bigger brains might in many cases be bigger hard drives, not necessarily better processors.”
Past studies actually suggest that the only reason bigger creatures have need of bigger brains, is because they have bigger bodies to control, and bigger bodies need bigger nerves to get the job done. You will often find that many creatures with highly developed senses, like sight and hearing, will have an increased brain size, but only in specific regions of the brain.
The study also suggests that, in fact, advanced thinking can be achieved with a very small number of neurons – as an example, one can learn to count with only several hundred nerve cells, and that only a few thousand are needed to generate consciousness.
I always knew spiders were intelligent, evil little things. You can read more about the study here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822%2809%2901597-8
Putting an answer to the age old myth about size and whether it really matters. Your brain that is. Get your head out of the gutter. Sheeshh! Continue reading →