• Question: Does the size of your brain alter how clever you are?

    Asked by radsare1005 to Daniela, Hannah, Ian, Jono, Mark on 24 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Mark Hodson

      Mark Hodson answered on 24 Jun 2013:

      Hi radsare1005,

      No it doesn’t. There are some classic cases reported in the literature where people have had unusually small brains but this hasn’t affected their abilities at all. There used to be a whole branch of “science” that tried to classify people’s abilities and personalities on the basis of the shape of their heads but this has all been discredited, it was a nonsense.



    • Photo: Hannah Brotherton

      Hannah Brotherton answered on 24 Jun 2013:

      Hi radsare1005,
      It is not the size of the brain that makes us clever it is how folded and detailed the brain is. So imagine the brain…..it is folded with ridges. If you put a horse and a human brain next to each other, the horses brain is smaller but it is less folded. Human brains are more folded and detailed. This makes us more sociable and lets us learn quicker.

      But why are humans more clever or more evolved than other animals?? This is because the front part of our brain is more developed. The front part of our brain is involved with our personalities and the decisions we make in life. We have instincts like animals, but then we have humans thoughts, which makes us the way we are.

      But if you are skilled in some things like music for example…..you will have a larger part of the brain involved in movement and memory. This is called the cerebellum. So not every human has the same brain. Different humans have larger parts of the brain which are more active than others, depending on what they do like being a musician, a singer, a runner


    • Photo: Daniela Plana

      Daniela Plana answered on 24 Jun 2013:

      Hi radsare1005!

      Although there is still a lot we don’t know about the brain, as the othera have said, how smart you are definitely has very little to do with the size of our brians!!

      Although it has very little to do with my work, I’ve always found the way the brain works fascinating… it’s incredible to think how many different things it does for us! How people go about studying it is also really cool… for example, recently a huge European project was started to study the human brain (http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/introduction.html)… it involves scientist from all over Europe and they are doing it all sorts of different ways, including trying to make a computer that works in a similar way to the brain, to help them understand it better… how cool is that? Trying to build a computer that if something goes wrong, instead of stopping working altogether, it tries to keep working in a slightly different way… which is what our brain does when there is a problem… it finds another way to do what it needs to do!


    • Photo: Ian Wilson

      Ian Wilson answered on 24 Jun 2013:

      Hi radsare1005,

      There’s a lot of debate about this amongst scientists with some saying it does and others saying it doesn’t. Opinion seems to be leaning towards ‘No’ now though. I think a really clear indicator of this is when we compare women and men. On average, women are smaller than men, and so are their brains. Yet there’s no real difference between average IQ in men and women. This suggests that size doesn’t play much part in things. In fact, a girl I know is REALLY small but she’s incredibly clever – if we believe that small brains lead to lower intelligence then that shouldn’t be possible!

      There must be something in the makeup of the brain that determines how clever a person is – we just don’t know what it is yet! It might be the density of neurons and pathways in the brain; it might be the exact way different regions of the brain are arranged. It’ll be fascinating to find out whether we can determine intelligence based on physical appearance of the brain! But, for now, we just don’t know enough about it.



    • Photo: Jono Bone

      Jono Bone answered on 26 Jun 2013:

      Hi radsare1005,
      Good question!
      The answer is no. Tiny insects could be as intelligent as much bigger animals, despite only having a brain the size of a pinhead. Scientists have suggested that larger animals may need bigger brains simply because there is more to control ,for example they need to move bigger muscles and therefore need more and bigger nerves to move them.

      A whale’s brain can weigh nearly 20 pounds (9 kg), and contain over 200 billion nerve cells, while human brains vary between 2.75 pounds and 3.2 pounds (1.25 kg and 1.45 kg), with an estimated 85 billion nerve cells.

      While some increases in brain size do affect an animal’s capability for intelligent behavior, many size differences only exist in a specific brain region. This is often seen in animals with highly developed senses, such as sight or hearing, or an ability to make very precise movements.

      A study of human brain is has showed that it is the number of folds that is a sign of increased intelligence.Furthermore, the human brain is shrinking as we continue to evolve.