The past two decades have witnessed tremendous advances in noninvasive and postmortem neuroscientific techniques, advances that have made it possible, for the first time, to compare in detail the organization of the human brain to that of other primates. Studies comparing humans to chimpanzees and other great apes reveal that human brain evolution was not merely a matter of enlargement, but involved changes at all levels of organization that have been examined. These include the cellular and laminar organization of cortical areas; the higher order organization of the cortex, as reflected in the expansion of association cortex (in absolute terms, as well as relative to primary areas); the distribution of long-distance cortical connections; and hemispheric asymmetry. Additionally, genetic differences between humans and other primates have proven to be more extensive than previously thought, raising the possibility that human brain evolution involved significant modifications of neurophysiology and cerebral energy metabolism.
© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences.