General Question

mally03's avatar

Does brain size matter?

Asked by mally03 (310points) June 30th, 2009

Wile watching a program about the prehistoric remains found on an island, dubbed “THE HOBBIT”, the scientist were going on and on about her brain size. How do they decide how smart or advanced a creature is by the size of its brain? A primordial dwarf of today is clearly just as smart as an average size person, wile their brain size is considerably smaller.

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14 Answers

Grisaille's avatar

Not sure, but I hear weight has a factor.

I imagine size does, in extreme cases such as this.

Blondesjon's avatar

It doesn’t matter how big it is. It’s how well you think with it.

Thammuz's avatar

Well, yes and no. It does when it comes to big differences, surely not within the same species, in the sense that, yes it changes when we compare our intelligence to that of an ostrych, but it doesn’t if we compare mine to yours.

Expecially in primates, though, the size is important for paleonthological reasons since a constant in human development is the growth of the primate brain, the peculiar part that allows interaction with our surroundings and their manipulation, all in all what makes humans somewhat different from all other animals.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Anthropologists would say yes as the evolutionary pattern of humanity suggests that there is a correlation with brain size and brain function.

As for the minute differences between the brains of humans, it is probably not as applicable.

nikipedia's avatar

The size in and of itself is not important. The size of the brain relative to the rest of the body does seem to be correlated with intelligence. (E.g., blue whales have much bigger brains than people, but that doesn’t make them any smarter.)

This isn’t a very strong correlation, though. Most of the brain isn’t used for thinking in the way we usually use the word. It’s used for perceiving, moving, and other stuff. So what really counts is the size of an area called the prefrontal cortex (again, relative to the rest of the body).

On top of that, calculating brain volume is complicated by the fact that brains can be wrinkly and have deep ridges and grooves called sulci and gyri. These provide more surface area, making bigger brains in a compact space. Animals we generally regard as intelligent, like dolphins and apes, have wrinkly brains. (There are people both without wrinkles in their brains—a condition called lissencephaly—who suffer from extreme cognitive impairment and usually don’t survive longer than a few months.) So a prehistoric hobbit with a tiny, wrinkly brain would be much smarter than a prehistoric hobbit with a tiny, smooth brain.

Jeruba's avatar

The fact that Descartes, one of the greatest minds of modern times, turned out to have a very small brain sort of spoiled that theory.

wundayatta's avatar

I kinda think it would depend on how hungry you are.

Oh! You meant with respect to intelligence. My bad.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I always heard it was a brain to body mass quotient, or that the number of convolutions (convex folds) of the brain is what mattered. Sheep have pretty good sized brains in comparison to their body mass, but they are as dumb as chickens. I would assume there aren’t a lot of folds in a sheep’s brain. I don’t know about the brains of Ben Folds Five.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

weight does provide a certain indicator, but in the matter your asking, the guy with the HUUUGGGEEE head that lives next door isn’t necessarily a genius.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 I know what you’re saying I know a guy like that, huge head but as dumb as a stump. Only thing is, I really feel sorry for his Mom, ya know? Giving birth to him had to be an ordeal.

mattbrowne's avatar

Not when comparing the same species. Brain size correlates with body height but not with intelligence. On average tall men are not smarter than others.

lrdess's avatar

The brain size has nothing to do with the level of intelligence. An intelligent person must have developed his/her brain. If you have the biggest brain in the wold and all you do is to eat and sleep without reading good books, you’re as good as having no brain.

28lorelei's avatar

Brain size isn’t as important as surface area. The more convoluted the surface of a brain is, the more gray matter there is, so the more neurons there are (neurons live in the gray matter, while the white matter is made up of the myelinated axons of neurons.)

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