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Lyndsey C's picture

brainstorming about the neocortex (pun intended!

Today we ended class with a discussion about "wrinkled stuff" in the brain, aka the neocortex, which all mammals possess and other animals do not. We all seemed to agree that this distinction must logically result in a difference in behavior between mammals and all other animals, in following with our conclusion that changes or differences in brain physiology ultimately result in changes in behavior. So our ending question to ponder until our next class (thursday) is to consider "what is the difference in behavior between animals with and without a neocortex?" Prof Grobstein left us with a few ideas to begin with (mammals = hair, warm blood, milk, birthing process, ect) but of course refused to spoil the fun and give us the answer, which is why i thought it would be interesting to sort of think out loud on this post and try to come up with at least an educated guess or three. (and this counts towards my "being wrong at least 3x per day" requirement for this class!)

1. since the cortex links the right and left hemispheres of the brain, maybe the neocortex in mammals has something to do with increased, more sophisticated communication and thus behavioral processes.
2. hormones are what control complex processes specific to mammals (such as producing milk or growing hair) so perhaps there is a connection between hormone processing and neocortex functioning, which in turn can affect behavior.
3. the cortex contains sulci and fulci which in part act to maximize surface area of the brain, which in turn increases number of and communication between neurons. maybe this physiological phenomenon is what allows mammals to behave differently from other animal classes.

I realized all of the guesses i posed attempt to answer the question of "why mammals behave differently" but none of my points account for "how mammals behave differently." Any other ideas? I'm curious!

and here's my final thought of the day:


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