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"What is so special about human brain, as compared to other primates"?

I have been long researching on brain evolution, the organization and brain size, as well as their role in shaping today's human brain. However, as compared to other priamtes, I do not see what it is that makes the human brain so special!! Brain size wise, it apparently does not make us special: although humans do have the biggest sized brains amongst mammals, evidently it is not linked to their intelligence. What is it about the human brain that is so different and special???

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    Mar 19 2012: humans have brains that are very special because they can combine the ability of the brain, emotional and spiritual, this is my opinion
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    Mar 17 2012: I do not know the answer to this but I sure am living it right now. Everything that was easy is now hard. I was totally used to the way i was and one surgery and whammo- here I am. It is hard to type, to talk to stand. In the past, if I took a stand against bigotry, I had supporters, now I am shunned. Did the world change or did I?
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    Mar 15 2012: The cortex of Albert Einstein had more connections between neurons than the average person. (I am still a bit horrified over the slicing and dicing of his brain.)
    Albert Einstein is, of course, well known for thinking thoughts well out of reach of every "other ""primate".
    For the main difference I am thinking about the abillity to avoid contact with the hypothalamus/frontal cortex region, in fact, not to be distracted by "every day live".

    I could be wrong but my guess is that FOXP2 is connected/interrelated to procreation. (For many generations humans can procreate all year round).
    • Mar 17 2012: Einstein's brain specifically had more connections in the Visual Cortex- - not particularly the entire brain. Einstein himself described his thought process as "visualizing" the observer as stationary or moving at the speed of light.
      Would a simily enhancement in connectivity elsewhere produce remarkable results? For example, the auditory cortex- - would that make great music?
      Is there any research in this type of question- - results would be fascinating, wouldn't they?
      Has anyone studied methodologies which would allow us to create additional neural connections- - genetically, or in childhood or as adults? I was often told in college that if I studied something several different ways- -reading, speaking about the subject, teaching others about the subject, etc., that it would create more connections and improve long-term memory of the subject,. It makes intuitive sense, but I have never seen any science on the issue. This raises interesting ethical issues as well. Is it possible to increase IQ? Is that a good idea? While we in the 1st world probably do not need ditchdiggers any more, that may not be true elsewhere. What is the effect of increasing IQ on other human enterprises? If anyone knows about such studies, I would be interested to know.
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    Mar 19 2012: To be more scientific it;s all about neurons and functions....
    To be more spiritual it's all about nature and soul driven...
    To be more social it's all about social environment who makes it worth being a part of body.
  • Mar 19 2012: It's so special because we are all humans and we are the people doing the research. I think if primates were the superior being then they would study their own brain and call it special. Also, I think the human brain is so special because of all the great people who we respect because of their brain such as Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison and what they were able to accomplish given essentially the same basic resources that we have.
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    Mar 18 2012: It's all the matter of complexity. almost all brain like structures and brains of primitive creatures are complex entities but human brain complexity has reached the self awareness threshold and that is the main difference. SELF AWARENESS. human brain has noticed its own existence. it has recognized the borders of oneself with the outer world and it has also realized its position and role in human system.
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    Mar 18 2012: I do not think our brain is that special among primates.
    What makes humanity special is spoken language.
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    Mar 18 2012: I was just watching the news and they spoke about the president and his speech and then went over the debates. After that short time focused on politics I went to the TED site and saw this question. Are you sure that the human brain is special. At the end of Animal Farm the quote was, "they could not tell the pigs from the humans." And so it is with the politicians and the primates. Add a little smile to your diet every day. Best. Bob
  • Mar 18 2012: Your perception of the world has changed. Look deep within yourself and you shall have the answers.
  • Mar 17 2012: We have different neural connections and biochemical signals. And epigenetics may have many roles.
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    Mar 17 2012: Please check out Chimpanzee Memory Test on youtube 2 minutes 53 seconds. By tehinfidel.
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      Mar 17 2012: That's truly amazing speed and accuracy, i tend to believe that's what i'm doing when i'm on the road. (yeah, right) Thanks for bringing it up, i almost forgot that i ever saw this.

      Concerning the brain of the Chimpanzee, the training strongly involves the limbic system, when the task is completed, there's a bit of food, the numbers and their meaning are seated in the frontal lobe as are the function of the touchscreen and the fact that the numbers will disappear, all these are also reached by the limbic system.
      However, procesing sight tends to use the cortex, now where did short term memory go?

      This test does emphasize the differing of chimpanzee and human minds, it seems to me that human minds are a bit on the noisy side and can't keep up with "the strong silent type" of brain that belongs to the chimpanzee.
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    Mar 17 2012: They all are 'biological machines' of the same kind, but the only thing significantly different is the mind, or the "software" of our brains. In terms of brain, scientifically its' "software" can be defined in terms of neural connections.
  • Mar 16 2012: haha I shall thank you for posting a relative article, if anything!!

    I actually have researched quite a lot about it and have found the following points as for what it is that makes the human brain unique:

    1) Human have a 3 times bigger relative brain size (relative brain size: the analogy between body mass/weight and brain size..) than a hypothetical human primate of the same body size. It has not been proven that size is related to cognitive ability and therefore the aforementioned fact does not necessarily suggest that humans have an enhanced cognitive capability because of their brain size.. However, solely the fact that the human brain is 3 times larger than its expected size, does somewhat make the human brain unique.

    2) The connectivity of the neurons in the brain and in particular the cerebral cortex are more developed than in other non human primates. Still, the actual different regions of the brain are the same ones in the human brain and the brain of other non human primates; for example a rat's brain consists of the same components as this of a human, however, the neural connections in a human brain are more developed. The above said (developed neural connectivity has been linked with enhanced intelligence)

    3)Genes: FOXP2: a gene involved with language, speech production and reading, appears to have had a mutation. the mutant gene is apparent only in human brains, the original form of the gene is apparent in other mammals as well. the mutant gene has been linked to the ability for humans to speak, read etc.

    another gene that only exists in the human brain: ASPM

  • Mar 16 2012: You'll have to forgive me for posting a cracked article here but I think this is quite relevant.

    The suggestion of this article being that our expanded consciousness grants us many extraordinary talents but our origins are still overtly visible in our cultural failings.

    Often you can learn as much about a system by studying it's failures as you can by studying it's achievements.
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  • Mar 14 2012: oh wow realy? thats interesting!! do you know any such genes?:)
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    Mar 14 2012: I heard that our pre-frontal cortex, neo-cortex and its correlation with the mid-brain are big difference makers when it comes to us in comparison to other primates because our possibilities of experience and interest are more profound than that of our primate cousins. This is not to say that primates do not have meaningful experience (there have been reports of primates getting depressed so there has to be something meaningful to get depressed about).

    Regardless of this, we are not going to find much of a difference regarding the shape and structure of our brains compared to that of a chimp (they look almost identical)...

    So if we were to take a reductionist approach to this, I would have to state the the neuro activity/processing is much more developed and sophisticated in humans than they are in primates.

    I'm interested in what others have to say about the subject but good question
  • Mar 13 2012: I have found a few differences in fact!I think that must be it! :) Some differences in the prefrontal lobe, neocortex and on a gene (FOXP2) after a mutation!:)
  • Mar 13 2012: I absolutely agree with both the point made hereby. however, I am looking for the physiological significant differences between humans and other primates and how the development or organization of these make us special. it is rather surprising that all the aforementioned traits (sense of self, ability to perceive someone's state and emotions etc etc) are the result of complex procedures within the brain. each of these traits, correspond to specific procedures in specific parts of the brain. for example, the so called "Broca's area" is a region in the cerebral cortex, responsible for the production of language. The same region can be found in the brain of a rat or a monkey! however, monkeys and/or rats do not speak! Why?? This is the question I am trying to resolve. Is it because humans, as compared to other primates, have more stimuli available to them? If so, then, wasn't it humans that created these stimuli at the first place?

    Broca's area is just one example of the similarities between human and animal brains. In fact, if you compare the composition of a human brain and the composition of the brain of a rat they are made of the absolutely same components. the only difference between the human brain and that of the rat is that the latter lacks fissures and gyri as it is much smoother.

    And I come back to the same question, why can we speak (for example) and a rat can not? What is it about out brain that makes us superior?
    • Mar 13 2012: Look, it is the function of the human brain that truly makes it special. Compare the chemical layout of the human brain versus the chemical layout of an another animal's brain.
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    Mar 13 2012: Random ideas - the bits of the brain or brain process that support:
    1) Language
    2) Sense of self and richness of emotions
    3) Ability to read the status/intent of others, caring what others think/feel and what they think about us
    4) Problem solving and imagination

    Language is the key to passing on knowledge and building on knowledge, for complex cooperation, the key to culture along with the raw intellectual power and self awareness.

    It is possible to have thoughts or visualise something without words, but words give thoughts power, objects names, meaning, enable us to express and examine etc
  • Mar 13 2012: As far as the genetic influences are concerned, the gene FOXP2 which is associated with speech and language has been apparent in out ancestors as well. how come chimpanzees-that did have the foxp2 (and so do we, humans) could not speak and we can? environment i dont think plays a specific role in brain evolution itself. it does play a significant role in education and our acquired knowledge, morals etc etc but the physical properties of these procedures and how such information gets processed remains the same-similar to other primates!.. ?
    • Mar 13 2012: The slight difference between man and ape makes such a difference that it could divide a nation. There are key genetic sequences that enable us to use language unlike primates. Education enables you to facilitate a language because you are not born with a language but the ability to learn a language.
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      Mar 14 2012: Actually, looking at the genetic makeup we are not much different from other mammals. What makes the difference is the gene expression. We all have a lot of genes that are not turned on, hence they are just there without doing anything.
      • Mar 15 2012: "Key" genetic sequences means the activated genes.
  • Mar 12 2012: Absolutely . However, compared to other primates, the specific regions of the brain, each localized with its own function, seem to be apparent in other primates as well. regions connected with speech, language etc etc exist in all brain of other primates. however, what is it that makes it more developped in human brains?
    • Mar 12 2012: Primary: Genetics Influences: Environment
  • Mar 12 2012: Brain size is worth nothing. It is the actual function of the regions of the brain.
    • Mar 17 2012: Sorry to but into this discussion, but you mentioned fissures and folding in the human brain- - is it not possible that such folding and fissures create more surface area, and that surface area also places more portions of the brain tissue into proximity with other parts- - thereby allowing more neural connections to be made because of that proximity? Sometimes it is the simplest things that can have huge effects. Do you know of any research in this field?