SCIENCES

A History of the Human Brain: From the Sea Sponge to CRISPR, How Our Brain Evolved

Timber. Mar. 2021. 268p. ISBN 9781604699883. $24.95. SCI
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How did the human brain evolve? Incorporating ideas from neurobiology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and in particular nutritional psychiatry, neuroscientist and science writer Stetka (editorial director, Medscape.com) answers this question. Stetka’s meticulous and fascinating research is well organized and covers a lot of ground. He begins hundreds of millions of years ago with the sea sponge (biologists believe that all animal life can be traced back to the sponge) and moves through time exploring hominid evolution. Particularly interesting are the chapters on the evolution of our social brain and how humans’ ability to cooperate and form social connections was key to our survival. The advent of fire, the ability to cook, and the emergence of agricultural farming furthered those social connections and provided important advances in nutrition, contributing to brain evolution. Lastly, Stetka explores the role that today’s digital world and scientific advances—such as the gene-editing technology CRISPR—might play in driving future brain evolution.
VERDICT A crash course on human evolution and more specifically, the myriad influences that shaped the development of our brain. Recommended for anyone interested in understanding the pivotal moments in the evolution of our species that contributed to creating the humans we are today.

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