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Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 26;8(1):6296. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24331-0.

Reconstructing the Neanderthal brain using computational anatomy.

Author information

1
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Kyoto, 619-0288, Japan.
2
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Yokohama, 223-8522, Japan. ogihara@mech.keio.ac.jp.
3
Department of Cognitive and Psychological Sciences, Graduate School of Informatics, Nagoya University, Nagoya, 464-8601, Japan. htanabe@i.nagoya-u.ac.jp.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan.
5
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Yokohama, 223-8522, Japan.
6
Automotive Human Factors Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba, 305-8566, Japan.
7
Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, 113-8656, Japan.
8
Anthropological Institute, University of Zurich, CH-8057, Zürich, Switzerland.
9
Paleoanthropology Group, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, 28006, Madrid, Spain.
10
Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD, UK.
11
Department of Cerebral Research, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, 444-8585, Japan.
12
Research Institute, Kochi University of Technology, Kochi, 782-8502, Japan.

Abstract

The present study attempted to reconstruct 3D brain shape of Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens based on computational neuroanatomy. We found that early Homo sapiens had relatively larger cerebellar hemispheres but a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum than Neanderthals long before the time that Neanderthals disappeared. Further, using behavioural and structural imaging data of living humans, the abilities such as cognitive flexibility, attention, the language processing, episodic and working memory capacity were positively correlated with size-adjusted cerebellar volume. As the cerebellar hemispheres are structured as a large array of uniform neural modules, a larger cerebellum may possess a larger capacity for cognitive information processing. Such a neuroanatomical difference in the cerebellum may have caused important differences in cognitive and social abilities between the two species and might have contributed to the replacement of Neanderthals by early Homo sapiens.

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