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Human brains rounded into shape over 200,000 years or more

But scientists are still debating what caused changes in noggin form

By
2:00pm, January 24, 2018
digital brain reconstructions

ROUNDING OFF  Digital brain reconstructions compare a possible Homo sapiens from around 315,000 years ago (left) with a present-day human (right). Human brains didn’t attain the especially rounded shape observed today until sometime between 100,000 and 35,000 years ago, scientists say.

Big brains outpaced well-rounded brains in human evolution.

Around the time of the origins of our species 300,000 years ago, the brains of Homo sapiens had about the same relatively large size as they do today, new research suggests. But rounder noggins rising well above the forehead — considered a hallmark of human anatomy — didn’t appear until between about 100,000 and 35,000 years ago, say physical anthropologist Simon Neubauer and his colleagues.

Using CT scans of ancient and modern human skulls, the researchers created digital brain reconstructions, based on the shape of the inner surface of each skull’s braincase. Human brains gradually evolved from a relatively flatter and elongated shape — more like that of Neandertals’ — to a globe shape thanks to a series of genetic tweaks to brain development early in life, the researchers propose January 24 in

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