Humans and Neanderthals have ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’

(ORDO NEWS) — The key difference between man and other primates is his large developed brain, which in a certain sense never matures, retaining a “childish” structure. And this feature we share only with the extinct Neanderthal.

The mammalian brain is made up of four parts, or lobes, each with a different function. The frontal lobe is associated with conscious movement and abstract thinking, the temporal lobe with memory retention, the occipital lobe with vision, and the parietal lobe is responsible for the integration of sensory information.

In this respect, the human brain is not particularly different from the brain of its relatives, the primates: it still has the same four lobes, although their proportions are different.

To assess the difference in brain proportions between humans and apes, an international team of researchers from Australia, the US, Italy and the UK studied the three-dimensional structure of the brain in fossil and modern primates of different ages using two approaches, paleontological and embryological.

It turned out that in the human brain there is the highest degree of relationship between the parietal and frontal lobes. However, we are not unique in this regard: the same degree of integration has been found in the Neanderthal brain.

By studying the changes in the brains of great apes as they grow, scientists have noticed that chimpanzee brains are much more human-like until these apes reach adolescence.

After that, in monkeys, the connection between the two lobes rapidly decreases, but in humans and, apparently, Neanderthals, it persists into adulthood.

In other words, not only the total volume of the brain is important, but also the degree of interconnectedness of its lobes.

Childhood is the period of the most active knowledge of the world and the formation of new connections, so that, while maintaining the “childish” structure of the brain, we are able to form new skills and learn about the world around us until old age, while it is much more difficult for adult chimpanzees to do this.

Humans and Neanderthals have Peter Pan Syndrome 2
The fine art of the Neanderthals seems simpler than the Cro-Magnon, but it clearly shows that these ancient people had a culture

This ” Peter Pan syndrome ” has played an important role in the evolution of the human mind. Judging by its presence in Neanderthals, they were much more intelligent than researchers thought half a century ago.

Our closest extinct relatives were not “cruel stupid” at all: they had the skills to make complex tools, possessed abstract thinking and a peculiar culture, so their extinction about 40 thousand years ago was not at all a victory of “smart” Homo sapiens over “stupid” Neanderthals.


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