Why our brains are not unique as we thought

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The human brain is an incredible organ. It is involved in every process within the body even though it is made up of over 70% water. Without our brains, we wouldn’t be able to function, and while it may appear that we have some of the most intelligent minds on the planet, this may not be the case anymore.

Feeding the brain

In a human’s brain, we dedicate 25% of our calorie intake to fuelling it, even though our brain only account for 2% of our total weight. Getting the energy there involves a complex network of blood vessels that transport a type of sugar known as glucose. Once there, the brain is able to go about controlling every part of your body from coming up with ideas, and maintaining balance to regulating hormones, and making sure you remember to breathe.

What we thought

We once believed that we were unique with how much glucose our brains needed to function. Scientists have already proved that our minds use double the number of calories than our cousin the chimpanzees, as well as somewhere between three and five times the amount that rabbits, mice, or squirrels use. As far as evolution goes, we have come a long way compared to when we were living in caves, but that has now been proved not to count for much necessarily.

The research

Two members of the Duke University, Arianna Harrington and Doug Boyer, decided to put to the test how much energy other species are using. The pair researched the estimated size of different animal’s brains, including monkeys, rats, and squirrels, to see their brain to body ratio. They then used this information to determine how much energy they would expect each animal to use to discover if we were in the lead for the race to the most powerful brain. The research uncovered that us humans have larger canals that lead to the arteries around our brains. The canals help transport more blood, and more blood means more glucose. However, when their experiment started looking at fifteen previously unresearched species, they began to uncover some very different findings.

What we now know

It was discovered that the human brain just isn’t as unique as we thought it was anymore. Doug and Arianna actually managed to prove that we aren’t the only ones giving so much food to power our brains. In fact, the smallest money in the world, the quarter-pound pygmy marmoset, uses the same percentage of calories as we do! They’re not the only ones either as the pen-tailed shrew also uses just as much energy for their brain, too. Unfortunately for us humans, we’re not as special as we once thought.

What this means

The study has left some interesting questions as to whether evolution naturally gave out more energy consuming brains to particular species, or whether the species using so much energy for their brains already were given priority when it came to solving problems. Whatever the case, it doesn’t look as though there will be a pen-tailed shrew take over anytime soon, but watch out just in case!

Well, perhaps humans aren’t as unique as we once thought we were. We may have opposable thumbs, and the ability to build a combustion engine, but nature isn’t far behind us when it comes to using brainpower. With the tiny marmoset hot on our tails for the race to the top we may soon have some hefty competition to become the most hungry-brained individuals.

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