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Understanding the human brain: insights from comparative biology

DeCasien, Alex R.; Barton, Robert A.; Higham, James P.

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Alex R. DeCasien

James P. Higham


Human brains are exceptionally large, support distinctive cognitive processes, and evolved by natural selection to mediate adaptive behavior. Comparative biology situates the human brain in evolutionary context to illuminate how it has been shaped by selection and how its structure relates to evolutionary function, while identifying the developmental and molecular changes that were involved. Recent applications of powerful phylogenetic methods have made new findings, some of which overturn conventional wisdom about how brains evolve. Here, we focus on four long-standing claims about brain evolution, and discuss how new work has either contradicted them or shown them to be much more complicated than previously appreciated. Throughout, we emphasize studies of nonhuman primates and hominins, our recent ancestors and close relatives.


DeCasien, A. R., Barton, R. A., & Higham, J. P. (2022). Understanding the human brain: insights from comparative biology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 26(5), 432-445.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 8, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2022
Publication Date 2022-05
Deposit Date Mar 3, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2023
Journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Print ISSN 1364-6613
Electronic ISSN 1879-307X
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 5
Pages 432-445


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