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BrainFacts.org

Introduction

Weighing in at about three pounds, the human brain is the largest and most complex of any living primate. But just as most human genes are nearly identical among mammals, so too does the human brain bear major similarities in structure and function to the brains of those species most closely related to us on the tree of life. However, even nervous systems from the simplest organisms offer clues about the function of the human brain. Researchers are also working to identify the key brain differences that endow humans with unique cognitive abilities, like speaking and abstraction. Neuroscientists study a variety of animal models, from zebrafish to songbirds. The simplicity of the nervous system in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans allowed scientists to trace all its neural connections. This insight could one day offer clues about connections in the human brain. Researchers also study chemicals in the animal world in hopes of finding new drug targets in the human.

Discoveries

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Humans possess cognitive abilities very different from other creatures, thanks to a number of unusual features of our brains.
Source: Dana Foundation
The human brain is the crowning achievement of evolution. But what makes it so special?
Source: Society for Neuroscience
It’s a very small worm — only one millimeter in length — with a big name: Caenorhabditis elegans. But few organisms have made as large a contribution to science.

Evolution in the News

Source: New York Times
Date: 15 Sept 2014
A fish knocks down insects with a jet of water that it delivers with varying speeds and with control no other creature is known to have.
Source: Science
Date: 25 Aug 2014

A new study suggests humans take longer than other primates to grow up because their larger brains divert energy from body growth during childhood.

Source: Discovery News
Date: 20 Aug 2014
The reason our brains have that wrinkly, walnut shape may be that the rapid growth of the brain's outer brain -- the gray matter -- is constrained by the white matter, a new study shows.
Read more about neuroscience core concepts for the U. S. National Science Education Standards.
Learn more about regions of the brain.
Neuromyth: Can your brain make new cells/
Animal research. Are mice the best tool to study addiction?
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