Modern Human-Like Brains Evolved Long After Earliest Humans First Dispersed From Africa – SciTechDaily

Comparison of Early Homo Skulls

Skulls of early Homo from Georgia with an ape-like brain (left) and from Indonesia with a human-like brain (right). Credit: M. Ponce de León and Ch. Zollikofer, UZH

Modern human-like brains evolved comparatively late in the genus Homo and long after the earliest humans first dispersed from Africa, according to a new study.

By analyzing the impressions left behind by the ancient brains that once sat inside now fossilized skulls, the authors discovered that the brains of the earliest Homo retained a primitive, great ape-like organization of the frontal lobe. The findings challenge the long-standing assumption that human-like brain organization is a hallmark of early Homo and suggest that the evolutionary history of the human brain is more complex than previously thought.

Our modern brains are larger and structurally different than those of our closest living relatives, the great apes, particularly in frontal lobe areas involved with complex cognitive tasks like toolmaking and language. However, when these key differences arose during human evolution remains poorly understood.

Skull of Early Homo From Dmanisi, Georgia

Skull of early Homo from Dmanisi, Georgia showing internal structure of the brain case, and inferred brain