Is the size of the gray matter in the head important for mental performance?

Is the size of the gray matter in the head important for mental performance?

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answers (2)

Answer 1
January, 2021
To begin with, the question is not entirely correct, although the point is clearer. It is clear that for the average person who is not particularly familiar with biology, the phrase "gray matter" is very popular, has a certain magical meaning - it is some kind of special matter in the brain that is responsible for intelligence. In practice, everything is somewhat different, more prosaic, and incomparably more complicated. Whether it's your brain or your cat's, it is made up of nerve cells and neuroglia, which are generally considered subsidiary, although this is a somewhat simplistic vision. So, a nerve cell consists of a body (soma) and processes (axons, dendrites).

The size of the neuron body is small, but the processes are very long, sometimes their length can measured even in meters, if they stretch through the entire body! The processes can be covered with a myelin sheath, which is actually a special type of cell that contains a larger amount of lipids. The myelin sheath does not cover the entire process, there are small "bare" areas - Ranvier interceptions. This structure allows the signal to travel faster, it propagates in an abrupt manner along these interceptions of Ranvier. We call the set of processes of nerve cells nerves.

So, we figured out the basics of the structure of a nerve cell. Now let's get to the point: the gray matter is an accumulation of bodies of nerve cells, and the white matter is a cluster of myelinated processes. Just. Simply put, white and gray matter is a relative separation, because they are two parts of one whole, called a "nerve cell".

About mental abilities. The question is tricky and debatable. Generally, it is believed that the larger the brain, the more highly developed the body is. "Highly developed" from the standpoint of a person, we measure everything by ourselves, we are still egoists. For us, viruses and bacteria are the bottom, the most primitive, but, unlike the classical theory of evolution, which likes to throw words like "low-organized" and "primitive", in a more progressive understanding of the issue, these organisms, on the contrary, can be recognized as the pinnacle of evolution, as the most adapted to life in almost any conditions.

So, of course, the larger the brain, the, of course, there are more nerve cells in it, more connections, even new brain structures, evolutionary know- how. So, the number of cells, and the volume of the brain alone mean little. The bottom line is always in the details, a coarse amount does not solve much here.

First, when talking about the volume of the brain, one should immediately introduce a correction for body size. Clear deThe fact that a cat is much smaller than a person means that its brain in grams will be lighter. If she is not a mutant)

Secondly, the ratio of the mass of the spinal cord to the brain is important. So, in cats it is 1: 1, in dogs 1: 3, in lower monkeys 1:16, in humans 1:50.

Third, and most importantly, size does not guarantee anything. And, if, between different species of animals in the evolutionary series, it is still possible to say something about mental abilities based on the mass of the brain, then God forbid measuring intelligence by the mass of the brain in humans. There is a classic example that Anatole France had a brain mass of approx. 1 kg, Turgenev's - 2 kg, and some patient with idiocy and epilepsy - 2.8 kg. So there is no direct connection.

It is much more important not the quantitative advantage, but the qualitative one. In humans, for example, more than any other animal, the new cortex predominates over the old one, and some areas are very strongly developed or even appear for the first time, like centers providing written and spoken language. The second signal system, in fact.

The human cerebral cortex is characterized by the highest degree of differentiation and complexity of the columnar organization, especially in its specific regions. During evolution, the number of associative cortical neurons, the degree of branching of dendrites and the number of spines on them, the number and plasticity of synapses, the efficiency of mediator processes and enzyme systems of the brain has increased.

We are smarter than cats, not only, and not so much because we have more gray matter, but therefore that our brain is arranged differently, otherwise it functions.

Answer 2
January, 2021

Yes, of course, the size of the gray matter affects mental performance. If it were not needed in its development, we would have remained with the brains of the primate, if they had the same level of awareness, knowledge and ability for creationism. But our brains are much larger, with about 86 billion neurons. Their connection creates tremendous opportunities for a person. There are only 250 million neurons in the cat's brain, which is only 0.29% of human ones.

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