Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The protective brain hypothesis is confirmed

19.07.2010
"In the past, it was thought that one of the selective advantages of having a large brain is that it facilitates the development of new behaviour to respond to the ecological challenges that the individual has not experienced before, such as a sudden reduction in food or the appearance of a new predator ", César González-Lagos, main author of the study and researcher at the Centre of Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) associated with the Autonomous University of Barcelona, highlights to SINC.

The results, which are published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, reveal that "species which have developed large brains live for longer than those with small brains, as the protective brain theory suggests, and therefore, can reproduce more times", the researcher stresses.

If the animal is protected by a large brain, this results in greater survival and a longer life. "However until recently there has been little evidence and there had been no agreement on whether species with larger brains live longer", the scientist points out.

According to this hypothesis, the brain would adopt a "protective" role which would help to reduce mortality and lengthen the reproductive live of the individuals, thereby compensating the energetic and development costs associated with a large brain.

The evidence is correlative, not cause-effect

The team analysed 493 species of mammals from different regions of the planet. According to the authors, the evidence resulting from the study is "correlative", in other words they do not "necessarily" indicate cause-effect, but the analysis indicates that the link between a large brain and longevity is not only due to the fact that species with large brains are greater in size and develop more slowly, they also live in specific regions or share the same evolutionary ancestors.

"As extension of life duration is central to many hypotheses on the advantages of developing large brains, these results offer a solid base which can be used to continue building a general theory on the evolution of the brain", concludes the scientist.

The first observations of Darwin

Throughout their evolutionary history some mammals, such as primates, cetaceans and elephants, have developed much larger brains than would be expected for their body size. But a large brain involves energetic costs and development time.

In El descendiente del Hombre (The descendent of Man) (1871), the British naturalist Charles Darwin, always attracted by this question, thought that a large brain, such as that of humans, improved the mental capacity of individuals, because natural selection favours the appearance of large brains.

Darwin believed that with a large brain mental capacity is improved. But, what selective advantage does it offer? The controversy on the advantages of having a larger brain continues.

Bibliographical reference: Gonzalez-Lagos, C.; Sol, D.; Reader, S.M. "Large-brained mammals live longer" Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23(5): 1064-1074, May 2010. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.01976.x

SINC | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.plataformasinc.es

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>