How to feed your freakish brain: My new column for Discover

By Carl Zimmer | July 26, 2011 6:27 pm

The human brain is, for want of a better word, ginormous. Sure, it’s only about as big as a cantaloupe, but it’s made of the hungriest cells in the human body. Keeping the brain supplied with energy is a huge challenge. In my new column in Discover, I describe how scientists have discovered some of the molecular tricks we’ve evolved to feed our neurological beast. Check it out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (6)

  1. Hi.
    A really nice article I enjoyed reading it a lot. Could you please send me the reference for the Wray paper on SLC2A1?.
    Thank you.

    [CZ: Thanks, Aurelio. I heard Wray present results at AAAS this February. He’s already published some similar results on another gene earlier this year here.]

  2. The brain is a mysterious organ as Dr. Ben Carson would happily agree with me on this.

  3. Our brains are going to be HUGE in 200,000 years!

  4. One factor that you did not mention is the importance of cooking on the development of the brain. It’s a good tie-in, actually. A few years ago, there were a few articles I read about the influence of easier-to-digest food on human evolution. By processing and cooking food, humans externalized some of the expense of extracting nutrients, allowing us to be adequately nourished even though our bodies lack the robust digestive apparatus of other animals. Cooking obviates the need for large numbers of nutrient transport proteins, etc. in the rest of the body, making resources available for supporting the brain.

    Another interesting correlation may be in the typical body mass of children with anencephaly. Without a large brain to support, the anencephalic fetus develops a large, robust body. I think there was a genetically modified mouse that also demonstrated this phenomenon.

  5. Crows Are Cool

    It’s time for a full investigation of the brains of some of the most intelligent animals in the kingdom. Check out: A Murder of Crows ~ Full Episode | Nature | PBS http://to.pbs.org/pR7W9Q . Crows appear to have the intelligence equivalent of apes: they use tools, can plan three steps in advance to use tools to obtain food, eat a complicated omnivore diet, prepare food, speak in a “family dialect” as well as using an open alerting channel, teach their young and mourn their dead. Amazing!

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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