Rethinking Newborns’ Brains They’re No Chimps, But They’re Definitely Not Undeveloped!

Disproving the Myth Newborns' Brains Are Not Undeveloped When Compared to Infant Monkeys and Chimps

Newborns’ Brains: Not “Undeveloped” Compared to Infant Monkeys, Chimps

Baby Picture

Do you ever feel like you were born without a brain? Well, turns out that belief is a load of monkey business! New research has challenged the age-old notion that human newborns enter the world with significantly less developed brains than their primate counterparts.

At first glance, it’s obvious that human babies are pretty helpless. They can’t even hold their heads up, let alone keep up with their primate buddies. This led scientists to believe that human newborns have comparatively underdeveloped brains. But hold on to your hats, folks, because it turns out that’s not the case!

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers analyzed brain development patterns in 140 different mammal species, including our own. They took into account factors like fetal gestation and the relative brain size of newborns compared to adults. And guess what they found? Brace yourselves: human infants are right on track with their primate relatives!

Lead researcher Aida Gomez-Robles, an associate professor of anthropology at University College London, put it best when she said, “Humans seem so much more helpless when they’re young compared to other primates, not because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped but because they still have much further to go.” So, the next time someone calls you a “half-brained baboon,” just remember that you’re right in line with your chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan cousins!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How do scientists even judge brain development in different species? Great question! They typically compare the size of newborn brains to their adult counterparts. And let me tell you, humans don’t come out of the womb with brains the size of a basketball. Our brains are relatively smaller at birth compared to other primates, which might give the impression that we’re lagging behind. But fear not! This “underdevelopment” is actually an evolutionary compromise. It allows our big-brained babies to squeeze through the birth canal, and then, boom! Our brains take off like a rollercoaster.

But wait, there’s more! Contrary to popular belief, this slight delay in brain growth doesn’t mean we’re any less intelligent than our primate pals. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This extra time gives our little noggins the chance to grow more dynamically and take in everything the world has to offer. We’re like sponges, soaking up knowledge and experiences like nobody’s business.

So, yes, our brains might take a bit longer to reach their full capacity compared to other species. But that’s only because we’ve got some serious growing to do later in life. And trust me, it’s worth the wait. Our brains expand and adapt, allowing us to become the intelligent, curious, and witty beings we are today. It’s like upgrading from a tricycle to a Formula 1 car—except way less dangerous and with fewer crashes (hopefully).

In conclusion, don’t let anyone tell you that you were born brainless. You might have entered the world a little slower in the brain department, but you’ve got potential and intelligence waiting to blossom. Embrace your inner primate, engage with the world, and keep on growing!

More information:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more about early brain development.

Source: University College London, news release, Dec. 4, 2023