Our Brains Are Growing Alarmingly Smaller

devolutionPerhaps people like Graham Hancock and Tony Wright are onto something after all when they talk about the ancients and our puzzling evolutionary history?

From John Black on Ancient Origins:

In the past it was believed that a larger brain meant more intelligence. Indeed, according to evolutionary theory, the brain should grow bigger as a species evolves.  However, rather alarmingly, research suggests that the human brain is getting smaller.

According to scientific studies, it appears that a reversal in evolution happened about 20,000 years ago. It was in 2010 when researching a skull that belonged to a Cro Magnon man, that scientists discovered the brain of our ancient ancestor was about 20% larger. This has been replicated time and again and it can now be said that the human brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimetres (cc) to 1,350 cc (both male and female brains) and this happened everywhere on Earth.  If we continue on this path, we will end up having the brain of Homo Erectus, an ancient human species which millions of years ago had a brain of 1,100 cc.

[continues at Ancient Origins]

53 Comments on "Our Brains Are Growing Alarmingly Smaller"

  1. sounds like the origin-story to Idiocracy

  2. Marc Favell | Aug 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

    Larger does not mean more powerful ,could mean less efficient and slower.look at computer technology for an example.

    • You beat me to it. Raw volume and system complexity are not the same thing.

      • Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

        Except you guys have absolutely no proof for your premise. Do you really think standing on the shoulders of Giants makes your brain more efficient? So if somebody hands you a cell phone that makes you smarter than the people that invented Civilization?

        • Cro Magnon wasn’t even the same species as you and me. Well, me, anyhow. Show me what the Cro Magnons invented.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

            Cro-magnons are Modern humans their descendants are modern day Europeans. They invented all kinds of shit and were profoundly talented artists.

            They invented fitted clothing, needles, thread, weaving, pottery, and probably revolutionized big game hunting.

            Cave paintings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux

            Finely crafted tools: http://www.kidspast.com/images/cro-magnon-tools.jpg

            Hand crafted bust carved from ivory: http://mathildasanthropologyblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/headbrugar3.jpg

            Wild animals are generally more intelligent than domesticated ones. I look at the cro-magnon as the wild ancestor of modern day humans, most of which have never invented anything.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

            BTW, the paint in the cave paintings was made from maganese and iron oxide and has lasted tens of thousands of years.

          • Cortacespedes | Aug 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm |

            Meanwhile, I can’t even buy a bucket of interior latex at Home Depot that isn’t peeling within 2.
            Cave Of Forgotten Dreams indeed.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

            I got a laugh out of that one!

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 10:41 am |

            It is theorized that the invention of the infant sling occurred 2.5 million years ago. Tool use was well established by Homo hablis (here is where your brain size increases) & predated Cro-magnon by over 2 million years. H.erectus wrangled fire & continued the gradual development of tool making skill. It is possible that Neanderthal taught leather tool making to early euro humans

            There is no reason to assume that the speculative ratio of inventors/producers/consumers within a ‘primitive’ society is vastly different than any other period. The rate of evolution of primitive tools does not show rapid advances. It indicates low rates of innovation and long periods of copying a useful design with gradual improvements.
            It is only during the rise of complex social civilizations that we see rates of technological advances occuring at increasing scales.
            If you attribute invention/artistry etc as a hallmark of intelligence & some sort of demonstration of human advancement, then it must be recognized that these elements are at their peak, the farthest removed from ‘primitive’ man.

            Ancient wild man good – modern man bad: It is non-cognitive moralism.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

            You are arguing with points I never made.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

            Correct. I am arguing against points you made.
            However, I would find it far easier to argue with points you don’t make than the ones you do.

          • ‘Cro-Magnon’ has different definitions in the anthro literature with the most restrictive being just the fossils from the precise site and the most inclusive being any(!) pre-Holocene fossil perceived as belonging to Homo sapiens. But in all contexts ‘Cro-Magnon’ refers to Homo sapiens and the actual Dordogne fossils themselves belonged to the white race like modern Europeans, not just representative of some plesiomorphic stock.

        • Hadrian999 | Aug 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

          have you followed civilization?

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm |

            Well, it don’t go right to shit from the get go. For example the ancient Greeks did most of the foundation work and they probably had higher IQ’s than people now.

      • Hocketeer | Aug 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm |

        You may have a point there somewhere but that comparison falls short.

  3. Ted Heistman | Aug 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |

    Cows and pigs got smaller brains too after they were domesticated.

  4. BuzzCoastin | Aug 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

    when I moved to China
    I noticed that everyone seemed to have an oversized noggin
    turns out they average 1492cc
    Ozzies were at 1282, kinda figures
    and aMerkins around 1343
    but I don’t think brain size has much to do with intelligence
    it ain’t the meat it’s the notions that count


  5. Experience has seriously eroded any notion I may have had that “High Intelligence” confers a survival advantage to a species.

    Especially in the long term.

    In fact, now I have concerns that “High Intelligence” may ultimately be self-limiting.

  6. The fact of the matter is that a teeny tiny percentage of the population is actually responsible for the technological ingenuity we all back-slappingly take credit for. It is merely all that is left over, or a glimpse at the sort of savant-like genius we all once had. Most people couldn’t build a decent looking chair, much less a TV or particle accelerator.

    And i’m not sure why everyones arguing about the “size doesn’t matter” idea…Did you read the article? Size matters A LOT when the mass of the species hardly changes at all, and yet the size of the brain drops an incredible amount. These claims that it is somehow “more efficient” have zero evidence supporting them apart from baseless conjecture in my opinion.

    If you change the materials you build the brain with, the brain will change dramatically. Many like Tony Wright have documented this alarming change in “build materials/fuel” very thoroughly but for some reason (can anyone guess why?) its falling on mostly deaf ears.

    • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 7:24 am |

      I agree with part of your premise, but I don’t see how Tony Wright’s premise ties into this. Are you under the impression that Cro-Magnon’s living in ice age Europe were Vegans who ate mostly fruit?

      By all accounts they were hunters and fisherman.(wore animal skins, painted pictures of themselves killing big game, made lots of sharp weapons) The Taiga is not loaded with fruit besides seasonal berries. Northern People groups have traditionally been almost completely carnivorous. The modern day descendants of the Cro-Magnons are North Eastern Europeans, some of which are still hunter gatherers/reindeer herders.

      • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm |

        The Tony Wright comparison is valid because one of the primary theories for shrinking brain size is related to it’s high metabolic/variable biochem demand and the advent of agricultural society which has led to a decrease in food variability & nutrition in conjunction w/ population gains.
        Wright’s theory equates decreases in brain size w/ leaving of forest environments & resulting nutritional changes. Decrease in human brain size began 20,000 years ago….at the height of Cro-Magnon culture & the beginnings of grain cultivation. The Neanderthal were cooking veggies…its rather difficult to think other contemporaneous human groups were not.
        The majority of Cro-Magnon settlements during the last ice-age stayed out of any Taiga biomes locating instead into much warmer microclimates throughout the iberian penensula.

        • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

          I hope its not too painful for you to realize you are not disagreement with me. Its odd how you can disagree with me disagreeing with Reasor and Disagree with me disagreeing with Tony Wright at the same time. One would get the impression you are simply trying to be contrary.

          The Neolithic Revolution with its grain based diet, created malnutrition which is associated with smaller brain size and body size. Though, Modern day Finn’s are still very close physiologically and genetically to the Cro magnon, probably due to a tradition of supplementing their diets with hunting and fishing. They consumed more barley than wheat also due to the climate. Their Sami descendant’s diet may not have changed much from paleolithic times at all, until very recently.

          This whole article may be a bit of a moot point since Finn’s still have large craniums and every modern person is not a direct descendant of the Cro magnon.


          • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

            Anyway, If you have evidence the Cro-magnon subsisted primarily on tropical fruits, I would like to see it. I think the the closest reconstruction of their diet would be a paleo diet with meat and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

            Never suggested they did. As per usual, augmenting other’s statements. Can you not actually follow what was said or you just cannot address it?

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

            I know exactly what my opinion is on the Cro magnon and its an opinion supported by the facts. Its you who are all over the place.

            The Cro Magnon were hunter gatherers and ate a diverse diet. They had large frames which is often the case with mammals in cold climates. Often mammals in Northern or mountainous areas are larger than populations of the same species living in southern climes. For example tigers in Nepal are much larger Tigers in Sumatra.

            The Agricultural Revolution of the Neolithic led to malnutrition, and resulted in smaller brains, weaker skeletons, and dental deformities. This same process can be traced in recent modern times, when indigenous people move from their traditional diets to a starch based western diet.

            Be that as it may, the large brains may not have meant that they were far more intelligent than modern humans. It was correlated to their large body size. I think they were at least every bit as intelligent as contemporary humans and possibly more.

            People in advanced Western nations are able to eat more diverse diets than they did as peasants under feudalism who ate mostly gruel. So people are finally catching up to their level of health and body size prior to the drop in the neolithic.

            People in Scandinavia, are pretty much the same size as the Cro-Magnon and many such as the Finns are their direct descendants.

            This has nothing to do with fruit. Chimps live in the forest and eat mostly fruit and their brains are 1/3 the size of ours. I think the evidence points to a brain increase due to hunting and eating more meat. I think the European Nobility maintained a large body and brain size through the middle ages due to the higher amount of protein. Robert the Bruce had a large Cro-magnon sized skull.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

            “….almost completely carnivorous” has now become “ate a
            diverse diet.” By some extension now it is the Cro-Magnon ->European nobility, which has previously been an association you have drawn from many other topics: warriors of the steppes, milk drinkers, wildness, various types of mating patterns etc. Always an underlying premise (and an expressed desire to personally identify with such traits) to which various notions and at best suppositions are applied.
            It’s fun/intriguing to suppose, to fantasize and speculate, however when the primary process is one of building your own conceptual identity, the application of said process to
            claims of broader theoretical interpretation creates a personal phenomenology. The appellation of scientific
            research to this end becomes prescriptive modeling and not rational propositions related to the research itself, therefore opening such declarations to a wide variety of criticism not the least of which is the logic by which such claims are made.

            Does “all over the place” mean directly addressing things you say?

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm |

            “the primary process is one of building your own conceptual identity, the application of said process to
            claims of broader theoretical interpretation creates a personal phenomenology. The appellation of scientific
            to this end becomes prescriptive modeling and not rational propositions
            related to the research itself, therefore opening such declarations to a
            wide variety of criticism not the least of which is the logic by which
            such claims are made.”

            Dude, put down the thesaurus and back away slowly…

            Actually, there is a lot of scientific basis the Steppe people were larger due to milk in the diet. Its all been worked out from skeletal remains and estimates calories per acre provided by a meat and milk based diet vs. grain agriculture diet. Its not speculation. You are basically just nitpicking what I say. Cro Magnon ate a diverse and in absolutely no way a vegan diet. The Cro-Magnons ate a lot of meat. They left bones all over the place. They left lots and lots of hunting and fishing weapons. They wore animals skins, they made shelter from mammoth bones. They painted all their prey species on cave walls. They were a hunting people. As far as them not living in the Taiga you have proof of that.

            So I am not sure what your point is. My basic point is that meat is brain food and that a hunting way of life was better than the life of an agricultural peasant. Turning proud hunters into agricultural slaves involves a process very similar to domestication and has many of the same effects.

            Feel free to disagree. I don’t care if you want to eat 500 bananas a day or whatever. Its a free country. Whatever floats your boat.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

            Nitpicking – in a sense, if intellectual social grooming were to assist you in your presentation. Social in the sense that I have not eviscerated the whole of your position or thought process and have presented you with an opportunity to understand a reasoned perspective. Most won’t do this for you. Consider how you transitioned from talking about an “historical/scientific” topic to about what I can eat. The discontinuity of thought process is striking, inasmuch so the continuity between a formative and oppositional self-identity that is intertwined with selective information biases rather than intellect within the service of productive will.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm |

            the paleo diet (as someone who as followed it) is at BEST a largely
            nutritious contemporary diet that focuses on local seasonal food. it is
            NOT however, a historic reconstruction whatsoever, when one studies the
            anthropology of food- it would be defacto IMPOSSIBLE to recreate a paleolithic diet without a herd of game animals and a forest garden of native plants (geo-specific).

            the ahistorical conjecture on many paleo board is astounding and quite often parallels white nationalist rhetoric on race, phenotype and origination.

            it’s good for some easy humour, but horrible for actual history.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

            Do you have an actual point?

            I am a descendant of Northern Europeans and Mohawk Indians. I eat just about 100% organic. fruits and vegetables and free range organic chickenm pork and beef. I eat from a food forest I have been developing the last couple years composed of native plants. I eat 25 % wild foods. A lot of my ancestors developed diabetes from a Western diet.

            You may not like White people, but that doesn’t make ME racist.

            Both of you guys are creepy the way you hang on my every word and not pick and make these inuendos.

            I am not sure what YOU ALL get out of it, but its no fun for me, so as far as I am concerned I am done corresponding with either one of you.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm |

            a lot of indigenous people suffer from diabetes due to the history of colonisation- that is indisputable.

            my point was that the paleo diet is about as historically accurate as a weekend pow-wow in croatia (maybe you know of the documentary to which i refer).
            the way paleo is framed both in cook books and on online forums is for western europeans. the contentiousness of sunflower oil and seeds for example- which ‘your’ ancestors and most of the tribes of ontario and quebec (ojibway and oji-cree) grew and consumed en masse. eating sunflowers is not considered ‘what grog would have eaten’ (yes, direct quote). while jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, apples, peaches, watermelon and citrus are considered ‘paleo.’
            i find that grossly illogical. it wasn’t directed at you- simply that the paleo diet is not an accurate depiction of what any first peoples ate.

            i have plenty of ‘white’ descent and plenty of european culture to draw from. my partner is white. i definitively do not hate white people. and since you’re now supposedly metis / multi-racial- welcome to the club! (you’re not ‘white’ btw)…

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 14, 2013 at 8:32 am |

            There is nothing wrong with being of European ancestry. All my Caucasian ancestors are from the North. They never owned slaves. My Father’s German Ancestors were on good terms with the Mohawks. They fought alongside them in The Revolutionary War, on the side of the British. I have ancestors who were killed fighting Under Captain Joseph Brant, the Harvard educated Mohawk warrior and statesman. the Mohawks had a treaty with the British. After the War my GGGGGrandfather was disposessed from his land and so he leased land from the St. Regis Mohawks in Quebec. So they didn’t “steal land” from the Indians. The Mohawks were their land lords. They had a 999 year lease. My ancestors honored the agreement. Eventually the land was taken over by the Canadian government my ancestors were kicked off and they migrated back to NY state. Over the years they intermarried with the Mohawks. My Mother’s ancestors lived in Boston for nearly 400 years. They never owned slaves and supported abolition and the underground railroad. So My ancestors have been living in America, on both sides of my family since the 1600’s.

            So I have no self loathing or white guilt from my white ancestors, and going back far enough in time, they too were indigenous people living in Northern Europe. There is nothing racist about honoring those ancestors also.

            So I am not disowning any of my ancestors. I don’t expect anyone also to either.

          • A pure bred Northern European, here, of Gaelic and Nordic heritage.

          • Once again, you’ve completely and utterly missed the point. See my other reply above.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

            The only thing becoming too painful is parsing the connections between your impressions, feelings, and non-sequiturs. The former are of little concern, except in that they contribute to the latter.

      • The closest ecological analogs of the Aurignacian Cro-Magnons of the Dordogne are the Fuegians and nearby Patagonians – large game hunters producing a large amount of lithic points and seasonally glutting on fruits.

        Back in the Paleolithic people were surely already ecologically diverse. The San, the Semang, the Tasmanians and the Fuegians did not all share the same way of life.

        The Cro-Magnon people and the Solutreans in Europe and the early North Africans were on the Alpinoid line, whereas other Paleolithic Europeans like Oberkassel and Abri Petaud were Nordics and Mediterraneans, close to the origins of the first agriculturalists and pastoralists. In that sense all Alpines, Carleton Coon’s Borrebies etc are of the Cro-Magnon stock not just the Sami.

        • Ted Heistman | Aug 14, 2013 at 10:35 am |

          Well, I am skeptical of the existence “alpine” line, “Nordic line” etc. and so forth. That’s all 1930’s anthropological terminology. I think its fine to embrace Pre-Christian European roots, but I leave the “alpine, Nordic” shit at the door. To me that is closely associated with so called “scientific racism” and I repudiate that. So I embrace my roots, but I don’t buy into Bullshit ideologies like that. I am also not concerned at all with preserving so called “racial purity” Europeans as a whole are inbred with more deleterious mutations than other populations. I think America would be better off as more of a literal melting pot, and that’s basically what my extended family looks like.

          My main point is that nearly every traditional indigenous diet was/is more nutritious than a Western Starch based diet, even if the diets themselves have nothing in common. They may all be almost completely different, but in relation to the Western starch based diet they are all superior.

          This is what Weston A Price found to be the case when he conducted his nutritional research. The common theme he found tying the superior diets together was raw fat.

          • Ted Heistman | Aug 14, 2013 at 10:47 am |

            So to summarize, the Cro-Magnons had big brains to go with their big bodies. They had better nutrition from eating a wild diet.

            When people were enslaved, they were given gruel just like cows pigs and chickens are fed today. These humans experienced many of the same effects of domestication, reduced vigor, smaller size, smaller brains, ballooning population but reduced biodiversity.


          • ‘Scientific racism’ is a smear against politically incorrect science. You should at least try to read about something before dismissing it. People like Coon and even most of those anthropologists in Nazi Germany, actually said little about human phenotypic diversity someone like Boas didn’t.

            Recent craniometry supports the existence of two clusters within Caucasian people – Howells termed these the Lateral (Alpines and their predecessors) and the Linear (Nordics, Mediterraneans and their predecessors). Linear types were present before the Neolithic but swamped Europe after food production was invented, which is the reason why Mesolithic Iberians are so cranially and genetically close to northeast Europeans and Lapps.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 14, 2013 at 10:54 am |

            Ted the methodologies/terminology you are decrying are of the same type you cite when talking about Robert the Bruce’s skull & Finnish craniums.

      • Ted, what are you talking about?

        I never claimed that the exceptional traits of our neural system evolved in ice age Europe, or that those people were “vegans”. I don’t think you fully understand Tony Wrights theory at all.

        200,000 or so years ago we were emerging from the jungles of Africa, even according to mainstream scientific thinking. The “theory” is that THIS is when the gradual erosion of the neural architecture that depended on this symbiotic relationship began. We were gradually cut off from the millions of biochemicals that were constantly building and fueling us for tens of millions of years. We probably ate hundreds of different species of fruits alone in those jungles, considering a forest elephant eats several hundred species and we are far more locomotive than them.

        Obviously then, by that simple logic, groups that lived 20,000 thousand years before our time, like those in ice age europe, would have suffered from less neocortical shrinking than ourselves. And once agriculture got going it really picked up.

        But of course here is going to be a lot of slight variation between the degree/rate of degradation among groups, especially since certain ones would have branched off at different times than others.

  7. A large brain gives the ability to handle a large amount of entropic information, and drawing useful conclusions. A classical view of intelligence.

    Now intelligence is defined as one’s ability to memorize “facts” and dick wag around ones superior factioid knowledge.

  8. Ted Heistman | Aug 13, 2013 at 6:37 am |

    Basically Cro-magnon didn’t die out they just became Finns, Estonians and Reindeer herders:

    “Recently, the use of mitochondrial “mtDNA” (female lineage) and Y-chromosomal
    “Y-DNA” (male lineage) DNA-markers in tracing back the history of human
    populations has been started. For the paternal and maternal genetic
    lineages of Finnish people and other peoples, see, e.g., the National Geographic Genographic Project and the Suomi DNA-projekti. Haplogroup U5
    is estimated to be the oldest mtDNA haplogroup in Europe and is found
    in the whole of Europe at a low frequency, but seems to be found in
    significantly higher levels among Finns, Estonians and the Sami people.[37] Of modern nationalities, Finns are closest to Cro-Magnons in terms of anthropological measurements.[38]”


  9. Edgar Bernal | Aug 13, 2013 at 6:16 pm |

    It doesn´t matter the size of the brain what really does is the amount of synapses between neurons

  10. Samuel Adams | Aug 13, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

    Smaller in this case doesn’t mean less superior or less intelligent. It could mean more efficient, less waste. Considering how much oxygen our brains suck up, if we don’t need an unused portion of it whose work is being done more efficiently by other areas of our brains, then smaller brains might be a survival factor.

    Too bad the authors of this poorly written article were more interested in the shock value than in the actual pursuit of science. Considering the source of this piece of crap article, a creationism site, it’s hardly surprising.

  11. This is stupid. Plenty of research has already demonstrated that brain size decreases with decreasing body mass. This has even been demonstrated in humans!

  12. The likeliest reason is gene-culture co-evolution because humans have self-domesticated and domestic animals have smaller brains than their wild relatives. Although populations of feral animals tend to return to something approaching the wild, ancestral ecotype after a few generations their brain size remains decreased, demonstrating that heredity is involved and not simply the environment. Also human hunter foragers need to have better memories for hunting tracks, maybe that has something to do with it.

  13. FaceWindow | Aug 14, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

    Because we’ve learned how to do more with less? Once we reached consciousness and cognizance for the first time, I can imagine we had a lot of shit to work out. Now, we’re relatively comfortable in our sentience, so the extra processing power isn’t needed. Think about each time a new console comes out. The launch games look pretty crappy compared to the games toward the end of its life. Why is that? The innards of the machine haven’t changed. Well, we learned how to do more with what we’ve got. That’s what happened.

  14. Jim McMillan | Aug 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

    The increasing survival success of the less able is certain to result in an increased number of such to the perhaps to the point that the able are unable to take care of them and remain alive. Humanity may be socializing itself to extinction.

  15. Echo Moon | Aug 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    this isn’t really all that much shocking news. all you have to do is look at the whole of the political processes, it’s members, a lot of their followers, believers of them and the party lines…..

  16. tibby trillz | Aug 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

    quality, not quantity

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