Human Intelligence

Why is the brain covered in so many wrinkles?
Answered by Lori Cuthbert and HowStuffWorks
  • Lori Cuthbert

    Lori Cuthbert

  • HowStuffWorks


  1. Lori Cuthbert Editor-in-Chief, Discovery News
    The brains of simple animals, like frogs, are smooth. The brains of smarter animals, like dogs and cats, are a bit wrinkled. But the brains of sophisticated animals, like humans, are covered with folds, called sulci.

    It’s this wrinkly surface, called the cerebral cortex, that puts us at the top of the intelligence mountain, essentially because by folding into wrinkles, more brain surface can fit into our skulls. More cerebral cortex equals more intelligence. The four wrinkled lobes of our cerebral cortexes are involved in higher-level processes like memory, perceptual awareness, thinking, language and consciousness.

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  2. By the time we are born, our brain, wrinkles and all, pretty much looks like it will for the rest of our lives. So, if we don't gain more wrinkles as we learn, how do we get them? The answer is pretty simple. As the human brain evolved, it grew in size, such that it risked needing a bigger skull to live in, a skull out of proportion with the rest of our bodies. In order to accommodate this growth, the brain sort of puckered up, creating the wrinkle-like folds we know so well now. During gestation, as a fetus's neurons grow and travel to various parts of the brain, gyri (the ridges) and sulci (the crevices) form the basis of the brain's wrinkles. Though the brain does seem to change as a result of learning, these changes involve the growth of synapses and neurons and have nothing to do with brain wrinkles.

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