How Large is your Brain?

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi 


It has been observed that human brain shrinks by the year. As early humans faced new environmental challenges and evolved bigger bodies, they evolved larger and more complex brains. Large, complex brains can process and store a lot of information. This was a big advantage to early humans in their social interactions and encounters with unfamiliar habitats.
The Homo habilis human that was in existence about 2.8 to 1.3 million years ago had a brain size of 600cm3, it became 1600cm3 upon evolution to Homo neanderthalensis and afterwards, the modern Homo sapiens brain has shrunk to an average of 1130cm3 for females and 1260cm3 for males. The increase in brain size stopped with neanderthals. Since then, the average brain size has been shrinking over the past 28,000 years.

Studies have shown a correlation between brain size and intelligence, with larger brains predicting higher intelligence. It is however not clear if the correlation is causal. Assessments carried out within living entities have confirmed mainly positive correlations, suggesting that optimally increased brain regions are associated with better cognitive performance.
This brings us to an unpleasant possibility. You may not want to hear this but it is obvious that the way we live may have affected brain size. For instance, domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild counterparts probably because they do not require the extra brainpower that could help them evade predators or hunt for food. Similarly, humans have become more domesticated. The modern man is not willing to scout for new ways of solving problems and is not breaking new grounds in learning. He is stuck to the old ways of doing things or better still, leaves things to be done by machinery constructed by another who had his thinking cap on. This could be the reason for the shrink in brain size.
The brain becomes powerful by exercising it. Exercising brain means using it more and more - this sharpens the mind and strengthens neural connections in the brain. This involves thinking critically, solving numerical problems and puzzles, studying difficult topics, playing highly educative games, learning new skills and ideas etcetera. These will help increase the brain size – preventing it from downsizing. 

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