News ID: 203530
Published: 0532 GMT November 01, 2017

Human brains use a lot of energy, but so do the brains of animals

Human brains use a lot of energy, but so do the brains of animals
The tiny pygmy marmoset, the world’s smallest monkey, use the same percentage of its body energy as humans do to power its brain.

New research suggested when it comes to the energy of demands of the brain, humans aren't as special as previously thought.

On average, the human brain comprises just two percent of a person's body weight, but demands 25 percent of a person's daily energy budget, UPI reported.

In other words, roughly a quarter of all the calories humans consume each day are used to keep the brain operating at full capacity.

Until now, scientists assumed this ratio was unique to humans. But new research suggested the brains of other animals require similar amounts of energy.

Doug Boyer, assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, said, "We don't have a uniquely expensive brain.

“This challenges a major dogma in human evolution studies."

Blood vessels carry energy to the brain in the form of glucose, a type of sugar. To gauge how much energy is consumed by the brains of other animals, scientists collected a variety of anatomical measurements.

Researchers measured the size of the bony canals that encircle cranial arteries in several species, including mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, monkeys and humans.

Scientists compared the data with estimates of each species' brain energy demands as well as measurements of each species' internal skull volume.

Their analysis — detailed in the Journal of Human Evolution — showed larger canals were associated with brains with greater energy demands.

Scientists used their findings to estimate the brain glucose uptake of 15 species for which brain energy costs are unknown, including lemurs, monkeys and treeshrews.

The new analysis confirmed humans use proportionally more energy than rodents, Old World monkeys and great apes to keep their brain functioning.

But several species use similar proportions of energy to power their brains. Pen-tailed treeshrews, ring-tailed lemurs and pygmy marmosets all used nearly a quarter of their daily energy budget to keep their brain functioning.

Boyer said, "This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.

“The metabolic cost of a structure like the brain is mainly dependent on how big it is, and many animals have bigger brain-to-body mass ratios than humans."

The findings suggest the ability to grow an increasingly energy-expensive brain developed well before the emergence of humans.

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