December 2011 Archives

Elephant Brains

A common debate among scientist is how the relative size of an animals brain relates to it's intelligence. Elephants have the largest brain of all the land animals. Elephants are also very smart. Holdrege starts the article off by presenting a series of stories detailing accounts of elephants doing seeming intelligent things. He then describes intelligence as "the capacity to meet new and unforeseen situations by rapid and effective adjustment of behavior" . He believes that elephants are intelligent but not as intelligent as humans. He encourages one to not personify elephants like one would a person, but just acknowledge that elephants can think of alternative routes to solving problems.

Holdrege points out that, along with humans and dolphins, elephants have brains with many convolsions which create more surface area. They also have areas of the brain that are highly enlarged. Areas such as the cerebellum, temporal lobe, and olfactory lobe. These enlargements lead to an increased sense of smell and muscle coordination. This leads to the conclusion that this is the reason why elephants are so able to control their trunks.

In relations to body size an elephant's brain is .08% of it's weight whereas a humans is about 2% of the body weight. An elephant's brain usually weighs about 9 12 lbs. That is larger than the average size of a new born baby.

This type of comparison, along with animal behavior, is the subjects that I am most interested in and that I would like to continue studying when I am done with my undergraduate career. I would like to believe that humans are egotistical in thinking that they are many of generations and higher mutations away from any other animal. I believe all animals, especially animals such as elephants and dolphins, are still smarter than humans give them credit for.


The effects of music on the brain is still a slight mystery. There is not a central brain area that that is activated when one is listening to music. Patients who have lost an area of one or the other brain hemisphere were still able to understand music and feel a beat. Babies are also responsive to music. If an uncomfortable chord is played, babies will squirm and cry. Whereas when a melody is played they might coo. Some researchers believe that each person is born with an innate sense of music. A sense of how music is suppose to go and how it is suppose to sound. This is then shaped by their culture.

Listening to music often invokes other responses also. This such as humming, singing, and dancing come with listening to music. These processes also involve parts of the brain in order to be coordinated. Music is a entity that can stretch and exercise the whole brain. Things such as the auditory cortex, the prefrontal cortex and other areas are often involved.

Music can also be used to help Alzheimers patients calm down. It can reduce blood pressure, increase premature baby weight, and can help dyslexics read more efficiently. Music is a very powerful tool. Research has to be done more on this subject because scientists are just beginning to understand the full effects. It would also be interesting to know if the researchers were correct if there is a learned and genetic program that tells all of us how music should sound and what good music is.

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