In a study of brain scans from 50 humans and 29 chimpanzees, researchers discovered an interesting difference: The connections between language areas in the human brain are much larger than previously thought and quite different from those of the chimpanzee brain. That’s, of course, consistent with the relative complexity of human thought and language but the question had not really been examined before with a focus on one specific area.
The researchers were interested in a nerve tract that connects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, the arcuate fasciculus.
Chimpanzee brain connectivity seems to involve mainly the temporal lobe but in humans there is a connection towards the frontal and parietal lobes via the arcuate fasciculus.
“Our findings are purely anatomical, so it is hard to say anything about brain function in this context,” says [co-author Vitoria] Piai. “But the fact that this pattern of connections is so unique for us humans suggests that it may be a crucial aspect of brain organization enabling our distinctive language abilities.”Radboud University Nijmegen, “Connectivity of language areas unique in the human brain” at ScienceDaily The paper requires a fee or subscription.
As the researchers put it in the paper, “In the anterior temporal lobe, connections shared between both species and uniquely human expansions are present. Changes to human language streams extend beyond the arcuate fasciculus, including a suite of expansions to connectivity within the temporal lobes.”
In recent years, researchers have discovered a number of other unique features of the human brain:
● Researchers: Humans are prewired to recognize words. Contrary to what psychologists had supposed, the ability to seek meaning is built in, not taught. Meaning is the “superpower” that wise scientists refrain from trying to “explain,” as if they controlled it.
● Human neurons and the human brain are much more efficient than chimpanzee ones. What was formerly thought to be “junk DNA” differs between humans and chimpanzees and plays a role in brain development. Researchers did not expect to find that human neurons have fewer — not more — ion channels than eight other mammal species do.
● Another new communications network has been discovered in the human brain. Our brains are smarter than we thought. Oscillations of over 100 Hertz synchronize across several brain regions. That may help us understand brain diseases better.
● The human brain has neural networks that are not found in lab mice. They are complex special networks whose purpose is silencing other neurons. Researchers theorize that these interneuron networks help us focus on complex tasks where we must keep many different factors in play.
As we’ve said before, there is a lot to study in the human brain. It is the most complex thing that we know of in the universe yet it has shrunk over the last 40,000 years, which have seen many technical advances. Its structure is similar to that of the universe. We will probably be studying it for a while
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