Grades 9-12


Science Bulletin

Autistic Brains Show Visual Dominance

After examining brain-mapping studies of hundreds of autistic people, scientists from the University of Montreal in Canada and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have found distinct patterns that seem to underlie autistics' remarkable visual abilities.

brain control grasping hand

Science Bulletin

Brain Control of the Grasping Hand

Many primates, notably humans, have fine motor skills that permit grasping and manipulation of small objects, essential adaptations for tool use. Curiously, the cebus is the only primate in the distantly related New World monkey group that also has a precision grip. A new study led by neuroscientists at the University of California--Davis mapped the brains of cebus monkeys to explore the signaling and evolution of the "grasping hand."
The evidence suggests that the brain circuitry for a precision grip evolved independently yet similarly in different primate species. In other words, the ability was not simply inherited from a common ancestor. Addressing how this occurred will further understanding of how humans evolved a sophisticated precision grip, which allowed for complex tool use, highly developed hunting behaviors, and further brain development fueled by an increased intake of protein.


Science Bulletin

Brain Evolution: The Sweet Smell of Success

A good sense of smell may have contributed to the development of certain kinds of social functions in Homo sapiens, according to a new study. Scientists used 3D modeling to reconstruct modern human and Neanderthal brains and discovered that the olfactory areas, which govern smell, are larger in humans. Their models also show that humans have larger temporal lobes, regions related to social behavior. Future studies will explore the possibility of a connection between the olfactory and temporal regions of the brain and the evolution of sophisticated social behavior in humans. 
This latest Human Bulletin from the American Museum of Natural History's Science Bulletins program is on display in the Hall of Human Origins until April 30, 2012. 
Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History. Find out more about Science Bulletins at