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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2021-22

PSYC 171 Brain Evolution

For the first 200 million years of mammalian evolution, animals’ brain sizes were relatively predictable from their body size via a straightforward allometric relation. In the past four million years, an evolutionary blink of the eye, primates rapidly evolved brains that are four times larger than previously would have been predicted for their body size. What are the contents of our brains? How do they differ from the brains of other mammals (and non-mammals)? How did they acquire their enormous size? Evolution acts on genes, not on organisms; what are the genetic factors that have been identified in recent primate brain growth? What mechanisms are at play, including extrinsic factors and evolutionary “pressures”? What criteria must theories of brain evolution conform to, and what data are to be accounted for? What differential predictions arise from various theories and how are they tested? What relationships obtain between anatomical and functional brain characteristics? The class will cover a set of related topics including brain structure, anthropology, evolution, genetics, development, cognition, race, and intelligence.