A critique of comparative studies of brain size

Susan D Healy, Candy Rowe

Abstract

In recent years, there have been over 50 comparative analyses carried out in which social or ecological variables have been used to explain variation in whole brain size, or a part thereof, in a range of vertebrate species. Here, we review this body of work, pointing out that there are a number of substantial problems with some of the assumptions that underpin the hypotheses (e.g. what brain size means), with the data collection and with the ways in which the data are combined in the analyses. These problems are particularly apparent in those analyses in which attempts are made to correlate complex behaviour with parts of the brain that carry out multiple functions. We conclude that now is the time to substantiate these results with data from experimental manipulations.

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Footnotes

    • Received September 1, 2006.
    • Accepted September 28, 2006.
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