Cooperating Mini-Brains Show How Intelligence Evolved

Cooperating Mini-Brains Show How Intelligence Evolved

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Working together can hasten brain evolution, according to a new computer simulation. When programmed to navigate challenging cooperative tasks, the artificial neural networks set up by scientists to serve as mini-brains “learned” to work together, evolving the virtual equivalent of boosted brainpower over generations. The findings support a long-held theory that social interactions may have triggered brain evolution in human ancestors.

The neural networks are nowhere as complex as the human brain, said study researcher Luke McNally, a doctoral candidate at Trinity College Dublin, but virtual experiments provide a way to watch basic evolution in action without waiting millions of years. “What this indicates is that in species ancestral to humans, it could have been the transition to more-cooperative societies that drove the evolution of our brains,” he said.

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