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Paleoneurobiology

1. Historical Development of Paleoneurobiology: – Ancient Egyptians studied brain functions in 17th century BCE – Ancient Greeks focused on brain studies in 6th century […]

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1. Historical Development of Paleoneurobiology:
– Ancient Egyptians studied brain functions in 17th century BCE
– Ancient Greeks focused on brain studies in 6th century BCE
– Comparative anatomy emerged in the 19th century
– Charles Darwin’s work influenced comparative anatomists in the late 19th century
– Invention of the microscope in the 17th century aided in brain cell observation

2. Key Figures and Contributions:
– Tilly Edinger, born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1897
– Integrated comparative anatomy and stratigraphic sequence
– Defined paleoneurobiology with the publication of ‘Fossil Brains’ in 1929
– Immigrated to the United States and continued research at Harvard

3. Endocast Analysis and Methodology:
– Reproduces external brain morphology on internal skull surfaces
– Allows inferences about functional anatomy, physiology, and phylogeny
– Compares fossil skulls to living individuals and other species
– Influenced by developments in neuroscience
– Focus on interpreting sulcal patterns and sagittal plane as a clear reference point

4. Brain Evolution and Morphometric Analysis:
– Cranium grows in response to brain tissue growth
– Brain size increase over geological time is a topic of exploration
– Morphometric analysis relies on chord and arc measurements
– Geometric morphometrics allow comparison between specimens
– Statistical analysis provides brain volume information

5. Significance and Limitations of Paleoneurobiology:
– Studies the evolutionary nature of human encephalization
– Allows prediction of average body weight of species
– Recent studies investigate connections between brain shape and cognitive performance
– Limited scale and completeness of fossil record hinder accurate documentation
– Fossil preservation is crucial for accuracy of endocasts

Paleoneurobiology (Wikipedia)

Paleoneurobiology is the study of brain evolution by analysis of brain endocasts to determine endocranial traits and volumes. Considered a subdivision of neuroscience, paleoneurobiology combines techniques from other fields of study including paleontology and archaeology. It reveals specific insight concerning human evolution. The cranium is unique in that it grows in response to the growth of brain tissue rather than genetic guidance, as is the case with bones that support movement. Fossil skulls and their endocasts can be compared to each other, to the skulls and fossils of recently deceased individuals, and even compared to those of other species to make inferences about functional anatomy, physiology and phylogeny. Paleoneurobiology is in large part influenced by developments in neuroscience as a whole; without substantial knowledge about current functionality, it would be impossible to make inferences about the functionality of ancient brains.

Endocast of Australopithecus sediba

Hominid paleoneurobiology refers specifically to the study of brain evolution by directly examining the fossil record of humans and their closest hominid relatives (defined as species more closely related to humans than chimpanzees). Paleoneurobiologists analyze endocasts that reproduce details of the external morphology of brains that have been imprinted on the internal surfaces of skulls.

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