New Scientist Piece Reviewed:Limit to Brain Size

Claudo de Contrecoeur* cyrano at
Tue Jan 28 08:32:06 EST 1997

>From New Scientist:         My comments are not indented.
>              [P L A N E T   S C I E N C E]
>         End of the road for brain evolution

This is quite interesting reading as I often wondered what is the
ultimate size a brain could reach and still work properly.

For instance I was thinking on the possibility that Evolution 
could have created,on other planets,more advanced life forms who would
modify their own brain through a science(which we do not yet have)I
call "Neuromorphogenetics".

If such ETI (Extraterrestrial Intelligences.See:Carl Sagan)exist I
wondered that one thing they would obviously study is how to
complexify their brains.

One important question is what is the ultimate size a brain
could,theoretically,achieve in low gravity?

I can,for instance,imagine Big Brains invented by ETI and located,let
say,on asteroids because of low gravity.
These big brains would be connected to non-biological systems in order
to make them able to act onto reality.

Could we make brains as big as,let say,1 metre in diametre on
asteroids or even bigger???

This is a very interesting theoretical work!
What are the limits to the size and volume of a pure brain in low

Could we create functional brains having a diameter of let say 1 to a
few metres,placed permanently in low gravity such as on asteroids??

I wonder if anybody has engaged in such work as it has lots of
implications for those people engaged in SETI,for instance.

Most people are looking for signals of intelligent life elsewhere
but,in my opinion,this is a complete waste of time as some reasoning
leads to the conclusion that "Big Brains" would certainly not
"communicate" with a species as primitive as homo sapiens.
Money would be better spent for other more urgent researches.
>         HUMANS are about as smart as they are going to
>         get. Researchers at BT Laboratories in Ipswich
>         have modelled the information-processing
>         capacity of the brain

This looks a bit too grandiose to be true...
A brain does not work like a computer because a brain is,basically,a
pattern analyser.
A brain works by analysing,adding,substracting patterns...which is
unlike what computers do.

>  found that any radical
>         improvement is impossible because of the careful
>         balance maintained between the size and number
>         of neurons and the blood vessels which nourish
>         them.

What about in LOW gravity conditions??

>They claim that we have reached our
>         maximum information-processing capacity, or at
>         best are within 20 per cent of it.
>This is typical. The notion that size and number has something to do
>with brain processing. In one
>breath the piece talks about not being able to make the brain better
>but the justification is that to
>so would make things TOO BIG...... Information-processing capacity is
>not a point in the brain. It
>is in binary computers.

>The one thing getting in the way here is the
>simple fact that the binary
>computer is a square wave process, i.e. 0-1, whereas the brain is a
>sine process.

>In order for a
>binary computer to appear to be 'real-time' or not 'jerky' it must be
>fast, very fast, to simulate the
>sine wave of the brain that will observe its output. Binary computers
>function in a 1:1 ratio of input
>versus function. In order for the binary computer to reach a level
>where the brain will accept the
>data just like a cartoon (the illusion of a flow of information
>instead of jerky snapshots) the binary
>computer has to process very quickly. The brain, on the other hand,
>does not function in such a
>         While brain size is a poor index of
>         intelligence, the number of neurons and the
>         number of connections between them are thought
>         to be crucial. On this basis, the human brain is
>         the most complex in the animal kingdom: it
>         contains between 1010 and 1011 neurons
>         interconnected at 1014 junctions or synapses.
>         The only creatures with brains of comparable
>         size and complexity are dolphins and whales. In
>         proportion to body size, human brains are about
>         three times as big as chimpanzee brains. Chimps
>         also lack the human brain's deep cortex,
>         believed to be the seat of consciousness 

    Would you deny consciousness to chimps and gorillas?!!

    They obviously have consciousness though more primitive.
    Otherwise how would they do to use tools and how would they have
discovered some medicinal plants which they use?

nd the
>         centre of higher thought processes such as
>         speech and memory.
>Here we are with SIZE again. In one breath it is claimed that
>intelligence has very little to do with
>size but in the next breath the whole argument IS size.
>         Peter Cochrane and his colleagues at the
>         Advanced Applications and Technologies section
>         of BT Laboratories looked at different ways the
>         brain could evolve to process more information
>         or work more efficiently. A bigger brain is
>         theoretically possible, they say, because our
>         hearts could evolve to pump more blood at
>         greater pressures to meet the increased demand.

But,apparently,they did not theorise about big brains in low-gravity.
>Then, the research was into BIGGER.
>         However, to produce a significant rise in
>         processing power, the axons of nerve cells would
>         have to be wider than they are now to speed up
>         the rate at which they pass signals. This in
>         turn would demand equivalent increases in the
>         amount of insulation along the axons and a
>         better blood supply, which would take up extra
>         space in the brain cavity, leaving less room for
>         more axons.
>The brain is functioning in a processing RATIO of input to memory.
>Intellect is determined by this
>ratio of processing. Increase the ratio and one can increase the
>intellectual ability of the brain but
>that is not the same as increasing the rate of passing signals. The
>examination given above is the
>same one that would be used if an electronic circuit were to be
>discussed as far as increasing its
>current flow. This is a deep error of brain evaluation. Nerve cells
>would not have to be wider and
>insulation would not have to be increased. There is NO current in the
>brain. NO Amperage to
>speak of. The researches are taking what they know about electronic
>circuitry and imposing it on
>the brain when in fact there is NO comparison. The Neutronics Dynamic
>System models the non-
>current operating system of the brain showing that an increase in
>voltage does not take an
>increase in insulation as the insulation is only isolation. Now
>consider this: The same argument I
>have made for quite some time: The brain does NOT function in a
>typical electronic manner. The
>resistance accoomplished by components in the brain are not part of
>the processing. The
>resistance is a part of the entropy of the signals and is
>computational. Components in the brain
>are passive. The computation takes part as a matter of the wave
>interaction within the


>ction of amplitude is accomplished by the synapse
>conversion to chemical
>transmission. The synapse isolates computation from conveyance,
>thereby continuing the system
>confidence and likewise assures one way of wavelet transmission. In a
>wave computation process
>if a single wave back flows it will corrupt the wave computation
>taking place before its order in the
>         The researchers also point out that the human
>         brain is designed so that the chemical signals
>         which pass impulses from one nerve to another
>         are transmitted as fast as possible. The larger
>         the brain grew, the less efficient it would
>         become, thus limiting any improvement in
>         processing power.
>Chemical signals are designed to pass quickly as a reduction in time
>would cause a back up of
>pulses of oncoming wavelets and cause the same back up situation as
>         "There is no incremental improvement path
>         available to the brain, which makes evolution
>         difficult," says Chris Winter, another member of
>         the BT team. It would be hard to improve on the
>         fine balance between neurons and blood vessels
>         that has already evolved in the human brain, he
>         says.

Maybe on Earth but the situation would be totally different in low
gravity such as on asteroids where we could create those Big Brains!

>The human brain can not be improved upon. The design is the most
>efficient processor in
>existence. Since it is so the design of it which IS the NTC patent can
>not be improve upon.
>         Robert Barton, a lecturer in biological
>         anthropology at the University of Durham, gave a
>         cautious welcome to the new work. But he
>         suggested that the researchers were being unfair
>         on the brain by treating it as a homogenous
>         system. "They assume that processing information
>         involves the whole brain, and that is not
>         necessarily the case."
>They are assuming the processing within the brain is the same protocol
>that electronic processing
>is and that is NOT the case. It is a useless research campaign.


>         Barton also points out that the researchers did
>         not consider the possibility of new structures
>         evolving in the brain, 

This is exactly what neuromorphogenetics will do:create structures DE
NOVO.For instance we definitely NEED to change completely our
communicational systems which are extraordinarily not efficient.
symbolic sequential language should be replaced by non-symbolic
non-sequential language which has a very low distorsion rate and a
high flux of information transmission and processing.

we also need to suppress those brain structures leading to
intra-specific aggression...which make us akin to other animals.

>r a greater degree of
>         specialisation of existing structures, both of
>         which could improve our ability to process
>         information and make intelligent decisions.
>The ONLY improvement possible is ratio increase. Since speeds of
>memory ratios are controlled
>by division of a single biological clock frequency it may be possible
>to induce an increase in that
>division but not by considering the brain from the perspective of a
>result of the brain. Electronics.
>         Mark Ward
>         From New Scientist, 25 Jan 97 © Copyright IPC Magazines 1997
>Lee Kent Hempfling...................|lkh at
>chairman, ceo........................|
>Neutronics Technologies Corporation..|West Midlands, UK; Arkansas, USA.

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