Brains, Brains, Brains

Can you guess which animal goes with each of these brains?

You can play three ways:

  1. Click on the "answer button" below the picture after you have made a guess.
  2. Click on a brain to see the animal the brain belongs to.
  3. See all the answers at one time.

Here are your choices:

ChimpanzeeCatBeaverSquirrel MonkeySpiny Anteater
DolphinManateeCapybaraLeast Weasel

Brain 1
Brain 2
Brain 3
Brain 4
Brain 5
Brain 6
Brain 7
Brain 8
Brain 9

Now that you have seen these brains, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. What are the similarities and differences between the brains?
  2. What are their relative sizes?
  3. Identify areas of the brain. Cortex? Cerebellum?
  4. Are their noticeable differences in any particular parts of the brains?
  5. Is the cortex smooth or rough?
  6. Compare the placement of the cerebellum and spinal cord.
  7. Compare the size of the olfactory bulb.
  8. Compare the size of the cerebral cortex.
  9. Discuss brain weight vs body weight issues.
  10. Discuss brain size and intelligence.
  11. Discuss language and brain size.
  12. Discuss cortical expansion in higher species.

(Images with the permission of Dr. Wally Welker of the Mammalian Brain Collection at the University of Wisconsin)

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The total surface area of the human cerebral cortex is about 2,500 cm2. This is about the size of a pillow case (about 40 cm by 62.5 cm). How do the surface areas of the cortex from other animals compare? Below are the SURFACE AREAS of various brains. Your job is to calculate the dimensions (into a square or rectangle or circle) of these surface areas and to draw them on a piece of paper. After you see the size of each brain, you should think of a "common object" (such as a postage stamp or a piece of notebook paper) that fits the dimensions. For example, if a surface area is 400 cm2, you can draw a square that is 20 cm by 20 cm (=400 cm2) and see its actual size (a little more than half a sheet of notebook paper).

Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (human) = 2,500 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (lesser shrew) = 0.8 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (rat) = 6 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (cat) = 83 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (African elephant) = 6,300 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (Bottlenosed dolphin) = 3,745 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (pilot whale) = 5,800 cm2
Total surface area of the cerebral cortex (false killer whale) = 7,400 cm2

(References for these surface area figures: Nieuwenhuys, R., Ten Donkelaar, H.J. and Nicholson, C., The Central Nervous System of Vertebrates, Vol. 3, Berlin: Springer, 1998; A. Peters, and E.G. Jones, Cerebral Cortex, 1984; S.H. Ridgway, The Cetacean Central Nervous System, p. 221)

BACK TO: Exploring the Nervous System Table of Contents

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