Early brain growth in Homo erectus and implications for cognitive ability

Nature. 2004 Sep 16;431(7006):299-302. doi: 10.1038/nature02852.


Humans differ from other primates in their significantly lengthened growth period. The persistence of a fetal pattern of brain growth after birth is another important feature of human development. Here we present the results of an analysis of the 1.8-million-year-old Mojokerto child (Perning 1, Java), the only well preserved skull of a Homo erectus infant, by computed tomography. Comparison with a large series of extant humans and chimpanzees indicates that this individual was about 1 yr (0-1.5 yr) old at death and had an endocranial capacity at 72-84% of an average adult H. erectus. This pattern of relative brain growth resembles that of living apes, but differs from that seen in extant humans. It implies that major differences in the development of cognitive capabilities existed between H. erectus and anatomically modern humans.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Child Rearing
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Fossils*
  • History, Ancient
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / growth & development*
  • Hominidae / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*
  • Skull / growth & development
  • Time Factors