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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Professor Robert A. Barton

Barton, R.A. (2008). Brain Modules: Mosaic Evolution. In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Squire, L. Oxford: Academic Press. 2: 389-394.

Author(s) from Durham


The only plausible scientific explanation for the existence of what Charles Darwin termed ‘‘organs of extreme perfection and complication,’’ such as the brain, is that they evolved over millennia by natural selection. The human brain contains millions or even billions of neurons organized into a variety of interacting but distinct neural systems. Neuroscience has predominantly approached the problem of understanding this complex organization without explicit reference to how it evolved. Yet the functional organization of a system must reflect both the adaptive problems to which it is a solution, and the combined evolutionary and developmental processes from which it emerges.
The way that brains are organized is thus intrinsically related to the way that they evolved.