Intelligence emerged as a result of a genetic accident – this is the most common conclusion among researchers who study human evolution.
Their studies would also have to answer the question of why the brain remains a “sleeping giant” in spite of all the important tasks it performs. While the myths of humans using just 10% of their brains has been debunked, neurological research still shows that we don’t use all the parts and neurons of our brains.
Human intelligence is the result of a huge number of interconnected neural functions, producing manual dexterity, a highly sophisticated and clear stereoscopic vision, recognition and use of complex symbols (abstract thinking), and a very long memory.
Nowadays, the predominant scientific view is that there are many degrees of complexity intelligence (some of which are present in all mammals) and that humans share with apes and dolphins a lot of characteristics that, until recently, were considered unique to human beings.
The difference between human and animal intelligence is given by the articulate language, responsible for the appearance of thinking, reasoning, imagination, and long-term planning – all these processes appeared with the semantics and syntax of words and can be defined as “internal language processing”.
In this context, the most important product of the human brain is consciousness. At the moment we do not know if self-awareness and consciousness exist in other animals, or if it first appeared in humans.
The Origins of Consciousness
All we know is that it can be considered a product of evolution, originally developed as a necessity for adaptation and survival, as consciousness allows individuals to create a reality beyond the physical world of the five senses.
Moreover, the abstract reality brought humans an invaluable advantage to project the consequences of their actions before they are performed.
The emergence of intelligence and consciousness represented a quantum leap in evolution, which allowed our pre-human ancestors to adapt to dramatic climate changes.
This jump created conditions for the emergence of a permanent connection between cultural evolution (grounded in the language) and the subsequent development of the brain (marked by high flexibility, adaptability, and ability to learn).
Thus, during a period of two million years, the human brain and nervous system came to perfection about 100,000 years ago.
Evolution and the Brain Capacity
What to do with the fact that neurological research indicates that we don’t use our full brain capacity, and some parts of our brains remain dormant? Moreover, we said that its evolution ended more than 100 millennia ago.
When the critical mass of neurons destined for intelligence was reached, the only evolution that remained possible for the new species was the qualitative one. So what do we do with the remaining gray matter?
While most neurologists agreed that brain evolution, in terms of intellectual capacity, is completed, there is no consensus on the use of dormant neurons to develop other capacities.
One approach outside the scientific paradigm is that of paranormal researchers, who believe that in the future, billions of sleeping neurons could be used in developing psychic abilities (telepathy, telekinesis, etc).
But if we turn to actual science, some scholars believe that the dormant reserves of the human brain can be used for learning and recovery.
It seems that the brain has some kind of compensation mechanism that gets activated in the case of sensory deprivation. For example, a study showed that the mice that lost one of their whiskers turned out to be more sensitive to their remaining whiskers.
A similar mechanism is observed in humans with a savant syndrome when people with mental disabilities and brain damage demonstrate remarkable abilities.
The only thing is clear – our brains’s potential is greater than we imagine.
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