Why Did Our Brains Stop Expanding?

Via Reality Sandwich:children of the forest

Tony Wright will be joining host Dennis McKenna for the live, interactive video course, “What Plants Can Teach You: Consciousness and Intelligence in Nature.” A new paradigm is emerging that recasts how we relate to and understand nature, supported by new scientific evidence. Plants instruct us through their behavior, through their interdependence with the environment, and through direct transmissions conveyed by spirit.  Along with Tony and Dennis, the course gathers  some of the leading experts in the emerging field of plant intelligence, including: Chris Kilham, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Dayna Baumeister, and Simon G. Powell. This 5-part Evolver webinar starts on June 17. Click here to learn more.

The following is excerpted from Return to the Brain of Eden: Restoring the Connection between Neurochemistry and Consciousness by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn, recently published by Inner Traditions. 

In the forest the human brain was expanding and expanding at a phenomenal rate. Sometime at around 200,000 to 150,000 years ago, this process came to an end. The brain stopped expanding and started to shrink. This key point in our evolutionary journey has been noted but rarely addressed, and its significance comprehensively ignored.

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10 Comments on "Why Did Our Brains Stop Expanding?"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Jun 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm |

    the fruits available today are ancestors of human cultivation
    the oldest of the cultivars being figs, banana & hemp
    about 10,000 bce

    not all fruit plants bear fruit in all places
    fruit that evolved above 31 degrees north of the equator need cold to fruit
    those from below, can’t fruit in cold, some need hot & wet
    we have no data bout fruit before 10,000 years ago
    nor little more than conjecture about diet
    which in all species is determined by opportunity

    where was this “forest” we all evolved from?
    what fruit did they eat there?
    how do we know this?

    • 1) Physiological data that indicates our digestive/assimilation system could fit the bill for a primarily frugivorous diet (I’m not saying we should all just eat fruit now, since, if the theory is correct, we’ve been reverting to a more primitive neural system for 200k years and are no longer necessarily capable of shifting immediately back to the same ‘fuel’. It works for some but an analogy would be like putting jet fuel in a rusty old beat up car that can no longer make use of it correctly.). This point and others are covered in the book and elsewhere.

      2) The we evolved in Africa tropics, where all our closest relatives originated/live, all of whom eat copious amounts of plants/fruits, makes far more sense than the notion that our brains expanded while in the savanah- one of harshest environments to survive in for a primate and an environment that has never produced a brain of such intelligence. On the other hand, intelligent mammal brains and rain forests/fruit seem to go hand in hand. It makes sense that the most complex and biochemically rich neural system would evolve within the most biochemically complex ecosystem, that, as the basic biology shows, builds and fuels our physiology.

      The non-seasonal tropical forests are the ideal environment for humans to have evolved, with minimal predators, warm temperatures, and an abundance of easily obtainable food in supply every month of the year. If a slow un-agile forest elephant can still manage to graze on hundreds of different species of fruit, imagine what humans could have eaten.

      3) Anatomically modern humans appeared around 200k years ago, which coincides with a drying period indicating that this may be one of the factors that drove us out.

      4) While the biochemistry of edible fruit is mind-numbingly complex, there is a lot of generic kinds with incredibly similar activity/functions (i.e. flavonoids, phytochemicals, nutrients, minerals etc.). We haven’t even begun to cultivate most of the edible fruits that grow wild in Africa. So while any approximation of the ancestral diet would be incredibly rough in our westernized world (not to mention poor quality/hybridization makes the issue more complicated), a diet with a large amount of different fruits would still have quite similar biochemical makeup/effects to a degree.

      5) The correlation between intelligent brains of a large brain/body ratio and fruit-based diets among species (fruit bats, parrots, etc). For another example see the difference between howler and spider monkeys…They are the same size/environment but one eats twice as much fruit and has a much larger brain.

      “where was this “forest” we all evolved from?what fruit did they eat there?
      how do we know this?”

      What evidence would/could there be if this theory was more or less on the mark? Fossilized human remains in the african rainforest with a fossilized fruit in its hand?

      Things don’t fossilize in rainforests…The only human fossils we have are of lineages that left at one point or another. And evidence of lineages outside of the forest symbiosis eating other survival foods is not evidence of what the majority of humanity ate in the past in the forests anymore than evidence of bonobos eating X foods in X location outside the forest at X time would be evidence of what *all* bonobos eat everywhere. Hence why these generalizations people make about fossil evidence are misguided.

      If we evolved in the forests eating a lot of plants/fruit (and that part doesn’t even contradict the general orthodox idea at all..they just neglect to account for the impact the biochemistry has on human evolution and connect it with modern psychological research, and in what environment the brain did it’s most recent expansion) then we would expect to find evidence for that list of points I’ve mentioned.

      We also have an almost universal ancient ‘myth’ of this ‘golden age’ in our past, and being naked, among the trees, and even eating fruit are things often mentioned (see Richard Heinbergs work), along with ‘myths’ of humanity’s progress plunge into an increasingly delusional psychological state. And in addition we also suffer from a high degree of ailments that the biochemistry found in flowering plants/fruit actively prevent/fight…

      “not all fruit plants bear fruit in all placesfruit that evolved above 31 degrees north of the equator need cold to fruit
      those from below, can’t fruit in cold, some need hot & wet”

      Yes, but I’m not sure what this has to do with anything? See #4

      • BuzzCoastin | Jun 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm |

        we know virtually nothing about anything
        that happened more than a few thousand years ago
        we don’t know with any degree of cetainty
        how, when or where homo sapien sapiens became
        homo sapien sapiens

        wee do know that evolution is opportunistic
        and has an extreemly robust operating system
        which is why homo sapien sapiens
        can live inbetween the extreems of earthly environments
        through the fruits of ingenuity

        • And our incredible ingenuity and intelligence that allowed us to survive in extremely harsh environments came from…? Should we just give up from thinking about our origins completely? Luckily Darwin didn’t have that attitude eh? ;]

          It seems unrealistic to suppose that the baffling brain size/intelligence of our primate cousins was due to factors completely different than whatever catalyzed our own.

          I deeply appreciate and revel in the unfathomable mysteries of existence and the fact that we know extremely little about reality, the cosmos, and even ourselves, despite the fact that we sometimes love to think we know a lot…but here it seems like a lame excuse for ignoring a mountain of evidence and sweeping it all under the rug because “humans can’t know such things”.

          Do we have the whole picture? No…Far from it. But that’s no reason to ignore what we do think we can gather based on relatively objective evidence, regardless of how rough or uncertain it is, in my opinion…Especially when the stakes are this high.

          The interesting thing with this theory, which is really just a modern re-framing of an almost universal ancient perspective or “myth”, is that it should be eminently testable whether or not the left hemisphere is developmentally retarded. And even fairly simple to test on yourself through some experimentation.

          • BuzzCoastin | Jun 12, 2014 at 11:40 pm |

            this theory, which is really just a modern re-framing of an almost universal ancient perspective or “myth”

            this is true
            passing it off as science isn’t

            is fuit good for you
            is fruit the difference between psychosis & perspecacity
            I doubt it

            PS: I eat fruit every day
            some I grow myself
            I like fruit
            I don’t care for the theory

          • You can call it whatever you’d like really…Spiritual, scientific, a mix of both, whatever. I don’t see how semantics makes much difference. Regardless of what you call it, it draws upon a wide range of scientific data from various fields and at its core is built upon high school level biological principles… I spent time in one of these fields and quickly discovered the book could easily have been 5 times as long, because there is so much data out there that, when we shift perspective, heavily supports it.

            Btw even many mainstream scientists such as Ramachandran, Allan Snyder, McGilchrist, Michael Gazzaniga, etc, have highlighted with their research just how dysfunctional and delusion-prone the left hemisphere is. We also need to build that into the equation, since we all have a left hemisphere (something they fail to do before their conclusion/interpretations that this level of delusion must be ‘normal’ and specialization etc).. There is a lot of scientific research in support of this idea and I’m interested in hearing an actual criticism of it apart from just wave-handed dismissals based on…what?

            I don’t intend to sound hurtful but ironically this sort of flimsy dismissal is exactly what the condition would predict based on the split-brain research. If people just don’t like it that’s fine, and I’d be interested in hearing why. But if your going to refute the theory on the basis that it’s not scientific you have at least have obtained more than a cursory understanding of it, and explain why, no? Anything else is, well, unscientific ;]

            “is fuit good for yousure
            is fruit the difference between psychosis & perspecacity
            I doubt it”

            I already commented on how these days fruit on its own doesn’t make all that much of a difference in shifting cognitive states, and that its not a solution on its own.

            That last sentence in my previous reply was hinting at far more than just eating some fruit.

  2. I’m not saying it was aliens…but it was aliens.

  3. Evoshandor | Jun 12, 2014 at 10:04 pm |

    I’m pretty certain the answer to “Why did our brains stop expanding?” is “Because we started putting our heads up our asses.”

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