I may be stretching things with my false advertisement that the economic depression in the U.S that we've been trying to recover from for the past decade or so is related to human brain size, but the question certainly didn’t cross my mind after reading an article published by Sciencemag.org, Teamwork Builds Brains.
Graduate students at Trinity College Dublin created a simulation to mimic the evolution of brain growth and compared it to other intelligent animals that have comparably large brains versus their body size to support a hypothesis that brain size is affected by the level of cooperation expressed within a community and amongst species. How they were able to accurately predict how their 3-6 neuron test brains would make decisions when presented with the games Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Snowdrift Game wasn’t discussed in great detail, but seemed like basic genetic testcrosses were applied to predict progeny types. The results of the brain’s choices (meaning their level of cooperation in each game) were then compared to brain size by measuring the number of neurons developed. An increase in neurons reflected more cooperative brains, signifying a higher level of intelligence.
So with leaders like George W. Bush who refuse to cooperate with scientists to attack climate change issues, and when international wars set boundaries making it hard for countries to cooperate with one another, it makes me wonder if there’s any evidence that our brain’s size and cooperation are linked to the economic turmoil. The economic decline is nonetheless motivating. For example, young college students are known to be the brainstorm central where seasoned professors can bounce off the issues at hand and historical events leading to our predicament to try and find resolutions to the numerous issues we are troubled by today. Marketing has taken the depression to a whole other level with power companies like General Electric and British Petroleum advertising that their ‘cooperation’ is leading to jobs and paving the way for a new, innovative America. And the good news is that cooperation in school just may be paying off as careers for the East coast in life science disciplines are increasing, leaving a hopeful and promising future with secure jobs. In a state address by President Obama a few months back, he blatantly accused Republicans of not cooperating. And the republican senator of Illinois responded that Obama is right, that we, as a country, need to cooperate if there is hope for economic recovery and put aside immaterial differences that tend to divide our parties since all Americans have the same goal: Success.
Perhaps competition is what prevents our brains from growing larger, and we’ve reached our brain growth maximum capacity as a species, but I’d like to believe my exaggerated ‘theory’ may be stretching the facts and that our brains will grow like those in the Trinity lab the more we cooperate, giving me hope for future social and economic relief, assuming our species can evolve rapidly enough, and of course, get along.