The Evolution of the Hominid Brain

  • Ralph L. Holloway
Living reference work entry


The evolution of the human brain has been a combination of reorganization of brain components and increases of brain size through both hyperplasia and hypertrophy during development, underlain by neurogenomic changes that have involved epigenetic changes largely effecting regulation of growth dynamics. While both genomics and comparative neuroanatomical studies are invaluable to understanding how brains and behavior correlate, it is paleoneurology, based on endocast studies (Virtual Anthropology and Biomechanics), which are the direct evidence demonstrating volume changes through time. Some convolutional details of the underlying cerebral cortex do appear on the endocranial surface. These details allow one to recognize reorganizational changes that include (1) a reduction of primary visual cortex and relative enlargement of posterior association cortex, (2) expanded Broca’s regions, and (3) cerebral asymmetries. The size of the hominid brain increased from about 450 ml 3.5 Ma ago to our current average volume of 1,350 ml, with a slight reduction since Neolithic times. Many more data from additional fossils will be necessary to decide how and when these two changes through time occurred and whether these were gradual or punctuated.


Brain Size Stone Tool Early Hominid Fossil Hominid Cerebral Asymmetry 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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