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Human Temporal Lobes Are Not Very Large Compared to Other Primates

Scans of the brain.
Credit: Cottonbro/ Pexels
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To date, the species Homo sapiens was considered to have relatively larger temporal lobes than other anthropoid primates, a group that includes monkeys and anthropomorphic apes. A study in which Emiliano Bruner, a paleoneurologist from the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) participates, contradicts this hypothesis.

This study, which has just been published in the American Journal of Biological Anthropology , suggests that our temporal lobes have the expected volume for the size of our brain, according to the proportion schemes shared with the rest of the zoological group of primates.

This result, different from those published 20 years ago on this same subject, is probably due to an expansion of the reference sample (the number of species and specimens analyzed), new digital anatomy technologies and the improvement of statistical techniques.

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“The overall volume of a vast cortical region such as the temporal lobe is not very informative of what actually happens to its many and diverse anatomical elements, but this study is interesting because it downplays the importance that temporal size has been placed on in human evolution. Brunner says.

The temporal lobe is involved in a multitude of crucial functions that include memory, language, emotions, or social dynamics. “Of course the complexity of the temporal cortex indicates that it has undergone significant specialization in our species, but this probably cannot be appreciated simply by looking at its overall volume,” Bruner says.

This study on the size of the temporal lobes of the brain in humans and other primates has had the collaboration of the Australian National University of Canberra (Australia) and the Indiana University of Bloomington (USA).

Reference: Pearson A, Bruner E, Polly PD. Updated imaging and phylogenetic comparative methods reassess relative temporal lobe size in anthropoids and modern humans. Am J Biolog Anthropol. 2023. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.24712

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