Debunking the Big Brain Myth

Big Brain Myth

Just because we’ve got bigger brains doesn’t mean we’ve got a leg up on the rest of the animal kingdom, concludes new research from Queen Mary, University of London, and Cambridge University. Researchers claim that with the aid of computer generated models, they have determined even remarkably small sized brains are capable of consciousness—with as little as a few hundred nerve cells doing the job.

Apparently, size doesn’t matter so much as we’d like to think. The researchers explain:

“In bigger brains we often don’t find more complexity, just an endless repetition of the same neural circuits over and over. This might add detail to remembered images or sounds, but not add any degree of complexity. To use a computer analogy, bigger brains might in many cases be bigger hard drives, not necessarily better processors.”

Brains simply tend to be larger in larger animals, the researchers explain—and further, size does not seem to be a factor in actual intellect. Perhaps this research will finally put to rest the old and incorrect supposition that humans only use 10% of their brain and, therefore, have tons of unlocked potential (so much for that plot arc on Fringe). What the research seems to demonstrate is, really, it’s not the size of the brain that matters, but rather, how we use it and which neurons are present that contribute to complex processes.

So next time you belittle your cat for her brainlessness, consider that she may be mocking you right back… or at least, she could if she wanted to.