New Horizons in Science

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Humans have big brains. So what?

Topic: Anthropology
Sunday, October 14, 2018 -
8:45am to 10:00am
Lisner Auditorium

If comparative studies of the human brain have a mantra, it might be “size matters.” And indeed, our brain’s remarkable size explains many of the unique behaviors and capabilities of our species. Yet Chet Sherwood, who has spent his career studying primate brain evolution, wants to find answers to questions that size doesn’t explain.

Through comparative studies of gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo brains, he has identified hot spots of evolution, brain regions associated with social context and reward that might explain the remarkably distinctive behavior of those species. Could similar “hot spots” help explain what makes us human as well? Still other studies hint that developmental and environmental factors might explain more about human brain evolution, and especially our capacity for culture, than either genes or morphology. Sherwood will offer a few provocative thoughts about what makes humans distinctive.

Social media hashtag: #BigBrainsSoWhat
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