Brain proportions important

By • Published: May 9th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Anyone who’s heard the story of “The Three Bears” knows Goldilocks could be a little picky.

The chair, the bed, the spoon… it all had to be “juuust right.”

Apparently, the same thing applies to various brain structures.

Scientists at the Salk Institute say the brain’s central processing unit, the cortex, has to be precisely proportioned for mice to properly run through obstacle courses or maintain their balance.

Otherwise their bodies respond about as well as Goldilocks did to cold porridge.

In experiments, the mice were genetically engineered to have smaller or larger than normal cortical areas. If the sections were too out of proportion, balance and coordination dropped dramatically.

But in humans, these brain areas can naturally be twice the size from one person to the next.

While scientists have long thought that bigger is better, it may be that proportion among the brain structures is more important in terms of balance and coordination.

It could help explain why some people are better at hitting baseballs or maintaining their balance.

But whether differences in brain structures affect intelligence is another matter.

The next step may be for scientists to evaluate volunteers’ thinking skills and physical coordination in context with the size of their cortical areas.

If scientists can figure out how those three neurological bears relate to one another, it could reveal why some people are natural dancers and others write bedtime stories for a living.

It could be their brain structures are juuust right for the jobs.