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Bigger brains could help us see better

Bigger brain areas could have evolved to help us perceive more, and more accurately, according to a new study published by scientists at the University of Bath.

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It has become increasingly common to hear reports that big brains are not necessary, or even an evolutionary fluke. However, a new article from psychologists at Bath found that increases in the size of brain areas, such as the visual cortex, are an essential element of evolution.

As part of the study, the researchers found that an increase in the size of the visual part of the brain in different primate species, including humans, apes, and monkeys, is associated with enhanced visual processing.

It is controversial whether overall brain size can predict intelligence. However the size of specialised areas within the brain is associated with specific changes in behaviour such as reducing the susceptibility to visual illusions and increasing the visual acuity or fine details that can be seen.

First author, Dr Alexandra de Sousa of the University’s Department of Psychology explained: “Primates with a bigger visual cortex have better visual resolution, the precision of vision, and reduced visual illusion strength. In essence, the bigger the brain area, the better the visual processing ability.

“The size of brain areas predicts not only the number of neurons (brain cells) in that area, but also the likelihood of connections between neurons. These connections allow for increasingly complex computations to be made that allow for more accurate, and more...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.