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A critique of comparative studies of brain size

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susan Healy, Professor Candy Rowe


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In recent years, there have been over 50 comparative analyses carried out in which social or ecological variables have been used to explain variation in whole brain size, or a part thereof, in a range of vertebrate species. Here, we review this body of work, pointing out that there are a number of substantial problems with some of the assumptions that underpin the hypotheses (e.g. what brain size means), with the data collection and with the ways in which the data are combined in the analyses. These problems are particularly apparent in those analyses in which attempts are made to correlate complex behaviour with parts of the brain that carry out multiple functions. We conclude that now is the time to substantiate these results with data from experimental manipulations. © 2006 The Royal Society.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Healy SD, Rowe C

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2007

Volume: 274

Issue: 1609

Pages: 453-464

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970


DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3748