Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique

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Some parts are implicated in psychiatric conditions like ADHD, drug addiction or compulsive behaviour disorders. Language is affected when other parts are damaged after stroke or neurodegenerative disease. A better understanding of the neural connections and networks involved should help the understanding of changes in the brain that go along with these conditions. Professor Rushworth explains: 'The brain is a mosaic of interlinked areas. We wanted to look at this very important region of the frontal part of the brain and see how many tiles there are and where they are placed.

From the MRI data, the researchers were able to divide the human ventrolateral frontal cortex into 12 areas that were consistent across all the individuals. The researchers were then able to compare the 12 areas in the human brain region with the organisation of the monkey prefrontal cortex. Overall, they were very similar with 11 of the 12 areas being found in both species and being connected up to other brain areas in very similar ways.

Gene that makes human brain unique identified by scientists

However, one area of the human ventrolateral frontal cortex had no equivalent in the macaque -- an area called the lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex. The Oxford research group also found that the auditory parts of the brain were very well connected with the human prefrontal cortex, but much less so in the macaque. The researchers suggest this may be critical for our ability to understand and generate speech. Materials provided by University of Oxford.

Book Summary: Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique by Michael Gazzaniga

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Unlocking the Secrets and Powers of the Brain

Five incredible advances in brain disease treatment. Language and social cognition fall along a continuum across species. Deception, for instance, long thought to be unique to humans, is present in monkeys and crows, which can even hide their attempts to deceive.

The Human Factor | The Kavli Foundation

Counterintuitively, much of what makes us human is not an ability to do more things, Gazzaniga writes, but an ability to inhibit automatic responses in favor of reasoned ones; consequently, we may be the only species that engages in delayed gratification and impulse control thank you, prefrontal cortex.

The attraction to stories, plays, paintings and music — experiences with no obvious evolutionary payoff — is puzzling. Artistic, representational thinking could have been fundamental in making us the way we are.


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In a hair-raising final chapter, Gazzaniga turns to the question of whether technology may eventually make us something other than human, exploring such potential enhancements as brain implants and germ-line gene therapy, which alters the DNA in sperm, egg or embryo thus passing the changes on to future generations. But what happens, Gazzaniga asks, when we identify genes that indicate a high probability of developing diabetes or heart disease in middle age?

You may reject out of hand the idea of a neural implant, a computer chip grafted to your brain. But the lines become blurred.

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