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Endothermia Facilitates Evolution of Large Brains

Yuguo Yu

Center for Computational Systems Biology
Fudan University


Mammals and birds have much larger brains than do other vertebrates. They are also different in having warm and constant body temperatures. Is this a coincidence, or is there some formal or necessary link between the two facts? Here I derive a general model, based on principles of temperature-dependent biochemical kinetics and allometry, that characterizes the effect of temperature and body size on body metabolism and brain size. The model fits well with the scaling relationship of brain-body mass for both cold-blood animals and warm-blood animals, thus provides a possible explanation for the reason that endothermic animals contain brains 10-20 times heavier than ectothermic animals, and human brains 5 times heavier than mammalian animals. This model also predicts that ectothermic animals living under warmer conditions should have a larger size brain than those under colder conditions. Analysis of data from fish collected from different environmental temperature conditions well supports this prediction.  

Short Bio

Yuguo Yu is with the Center for Computational Systems Biology of Fudan University. He received B.Sc and the M.S. in Physics from Lanzhou University in 1995 and 1998, and Ph.D. in Physics from Nanjing University. He was trained in Computational/Behavior Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University as a Postdoctoral Fellow from 2001 to 2004; and then served as a Postdoc Associate and Associate Research Scientist at the Department of Neurobiology, Yale University from 2005-2011. Since 2011, he joins CCSB at Fudan University as a Principal Investigator (PI) faculty. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, systems identification, cellular mechanisms of cortical spiking dynamics and information transmission, neural encoding and decoding, large scale of cortical network modeling, and neuroinformatics.

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Last updated: January 19, 2013