Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

2009 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Binder, Nobutaka Hirokawa, Uwe Windhorst

Evolution of the Brain in Humans – Paleoneurology

  • Ralph L. Holloway
  • Chet C. Sherwood
  • Patrick R. Hof
  • James K. Rilling
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29678-2_3152


The evolution of the human brain from hominids existing perhaps 3–5 MYA (million years ago) to the present has been a mosaic process of size increases intercalated with episodes of reorganization of the cerebral cortex. The fossil evidence shows that reorganization preceded large-scale brain size increase, whether  allometric or not, by about 2–3 MYA and again around 1 MYA, involving a reduction of primary visual cortex and cerebral asymmetries, including those within Broca’s region. These changes were followed by nearly a tripling of brain size.


What is Paleoneurology?

 Paleoneurologyis the study of the fossil evidence for brain evolution and is, at present, the only direct line of evidence as to how different animals’ brains have evolved through time. Paleoneurology is not a new branch of paleontological study as earlier publications go back to those of Oken, who found petrified mud in a crocodilian skull in 1819, as mentioned by Owen in 1841. Tilly...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph L. Holloway
    • 1
  • Chet C. Sherwood
    • 2
  • Patrick R. Hof
    • 3
  • James K. Rilling
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and Biomedical SciencesKent State UniversityKentUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeuroscienceMount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA