Change in the brain?

Researchers in the U.K. have found that the shape of the human skull has changed significantly over the last 650 years

They took measurements from skulls of plague victims from the mid 14th century, and measurements from others that had been recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose, a ship that sank off the south coast on England in 1545. These were compared with recent records.

There were two major differences. One was that our ancestors had more prominent features, the other is that the size of their cranial vault was smaller. The cranial vault is the area from the eyes to the top of the head.

Dr Peter Rock, who led the study, stated, “The astonishing find is in the increased cranial vault heights. The increase is considerable. The vault height in the mid 14th century was 80mm, while today it is 95mm, that is 20% larger, which is really rather a lot”.

The brain is housed inside the cranial vault, and as our brains are not slopping around in the extra 20% of space, it seems reasonable to suggest that the brain itself has increased in size.

It would follow, therefore, that the electrical circuitries inside the brain have increased, and between the brain and the rest of the body. Could it be that the next phase of evolution for the human race is to do with this increasing electrical circuitry?

A study was published last year on the evolution of the human brain. “People in many fields have long debated whether the evolution of the human brain was a special event”, says Bruce Lahn of the University of Chicago. “I believe that our study settles this question by showing that it was”. The study found that the evolution of the human brain was accelerated when compared to that of other animals.

So it seems there is an accelerated evolution to do with a larger brain in humans. Perhaps the next step in human evolution will have more to do with the brain and its activity and functions than with change in other parts of the body. It is interesting to conjecture about what this may mean. Is our personal growth and development keeping pace with these changes in the brain, are we using that extra capacity in a way that is useful, and what implications does it have for our future development as a human race?

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