The farther that human populations live from the equator, the bigger their brains, according to a new study by Oxford University. But it turns out that this is not because they are smarter, but because they need bigger vision areas in the brain to cope with the low light levels experienced at high latitudes.It is sometimes claimed that regional differences in human intelligence could not have evolved in the 50k years or so that humans spread from Africa to Europe and Asia. This study shows that it is possible, at least as far as image processing goes.
Scientists have found that people living in countries with dull, grey, cloudy skies and long winters have evolved bigger eyes and brains so they can visually process what they see, reports the journal Biology Letters.
Lead author Eiluned Pearce, from the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology in the School of Anthropology, said: 'As you move away from the equator, there's less and less light available, so humans have had to evolve bigger and bigger eyes. Their brains also need to be bigger to deal with the extra visual input. Having bigger brains doesn't mean that higher latitude humans are smarter, it just means they need bigger brains to be able to see well where they live.'
Co-author Professor Robin Dunbar, Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary, said: 'Humans have only lived at high latitudes in Europe and Asia for a few tens of thousands of years, yet they seem to have adapted their visual systems surprisingly rapidly to the cloudy skies, dull weather and long winters we experience at these latitudes.'
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Northern Humans Had Bigger Brains