As promised, here is the first post in our “The Student of Life” series. This essay, focusing on the fascinating subject of the shrinkage of our brain over the last 70,000 years, was masterfully penned by USF student Savannah Robison during the Fall 2017 semester of BIOL100. It is a wonderful example of student research, blending subjects Savannah learned in “The Science of Life” classroom with her own interest in cognition as a Psychology major. Congratulations Savannah!
Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?
Flashback to six million years ago: Since then, 19 species of hominids have roamed the earth, and Homo sapiens are just one of them. We first diverged from the other hominids 250,000 years ago, and for most of our existence, humans were no smarter or more significant than any other animal. We lived in harmony and equality with all the rest of earth’s inhabitants, but through a series of events over the course of millions of years, humans have arisen as the most powerful species on this planet. We harnessed the ability to use fire, we began to walk upright and we developed elaborate speech. We also have advanced cultures, and amazingly complex brains capable of planning for the future, processing the past, and navigating the present with astonishing grace. These are the things that now separate us as unique from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have been evolving, most would say for the better, for millions of years, but 70,000 years ago we see something start to switch.