I have just downloaded a paper featuring some research from the University of Durham and our own School of Biological Sciences here at Reading:
(aside: “I don’t think humans are that great”, says Charlie the Chimp.)
Rearranging the abstract, we read:
Humans’ unique cognitive abilities are usually attributed to a greatly expanded neocortex, which has been described as “the crowning achievement of evolution and the biological substrate of human mental prowess”. The human cerebellum, however, contains four times more neurons than the neocortex and is attracting increasing attention for its wide range of cognitive functions. . . Given the role of the cerebellum in sensory-motor control and in learning complex action sequences, cerebellar specialization is likely to have underpinned the evolution of humans’ advanced technological capacities, which in turn may have been a preadaptation for language.
Using a method for detecting evolutionary rate changes along the branches of phylogenetic trees, we show that the cerebellum underwent rapid size increase throughout the evolution of apes, including humans, expanding significantly faster than predicted by the change in neocortex size. As a result, humans and other apes deviated significantly from the general evolutionary trend for neocortex and cerebellum to change in tandem, having significantly larger cerebella relative to neocortex size than other anthropoid primates. These results suggest that cerebellar specialization was a far more important component of human brain evolution than hitherto recognized and that technical intelligence was likely to have been at least as important as social intelligence in human cognitive evolution.
(Geeks please note the last sentence, and take heart.)
However, on reading this, I am immediately reminded of the following words from Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Iolanthe, first staged in 1882.
When in that House M. P.’s divide,
If they’ve a brain and cerebellum, too,
They’ve got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell ’em to.
I think that those words may well apply to countries all round the world, not just my own. But fellow Brits please note, if you do not know the opera, read the thing in context http://www.bartleby.com/380/poem/596.html, and see that reform of the House of Lords was just as hot a topic in 1882 as it is today!
As for the ape-man at the top of my picture? Well, he’s from the book “Woman Triumphant”; the story of her struggles for freedom, education, and political rights. Dedicated to all noble-minded women by an appreciative member of the other sex by Author: Rudolf Cronau. (1919).