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Front Neuroanat. 2014 Apr 2;8:19. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2014.00019. eCollection 2014.

Functional craniology and brain evolution: from paleontology to biomedicine.

Author information

1
Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana Burgos, Spain.
2
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid Madrid, Spain.
3
Montana Tech, Butte MT, USA.
4
Keio University Yokohama, Japan.

Abstract

Anatomical systems are organized through a network of structural and functional relationships among their elements. This network of relationships is the result of evolution, it represents the actual target of selection, and it generates the set of rules orienting and constraining the morphogenetic processes. Understanding the relationship among cranial and cerebral components is necessary to investigate the factors that have influenced and characterized our neuroanatomy, and possible drawbacks associated with the evolution of large brains. The study of the spatial relationships between skull and brain in the human genus has direct relevance in cranial surgery. Geometrical modeling can provide functional perspectives in evolution and brain physiology, like in simulations to investigate metabolic heat production and dissipation in the endocranial form. Analysis of the evolutionary constraints between facial and neural blocks can provide new information on visual impairment. The study of brain form variation in fossil humans can supply a different perspective for interpreting the processes behind neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease. Following these examples, it is apparent that paleontology and biomedicine can exchange relevant information and contribute at the same time to the development of robust evolutionary hypotheses on brain evolution, while offering more comprehensive biological perspectives with regard to the interpretation of pathological processes.

KEYWORDS:

Alzheimer’s disease; brain shape; cranial integration; morphometrics; myopia; paleoneurology; thermoregulation

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