Volume 2, Number 4 Fall, 1989

Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail charlesl@carleton.bitnet.


Lee Blonder's symposium at the American Anthropological Association meetings in Washington, D.C. on November 17th went as smooth as silk. None of the presenters even ran overtime. Amazing! Unheard of! And that's not all. It was attended by between a hundred and a hundred and twenty-five people, which has to be a minor record for interest in things neuroanthropological at those meetings. After it was over, Lee and I and John McManus went out of the Hilton and bought lots of wine and munchies for the get-together that evening. McManus created a cooler out of garbage bags and a cardboard box and by five the wine was nicely chilled. The wine and cheeze party in Lee's room was an unconditional success. All the network members attending the meetings were there, as well as others who had presented in the symposium and still others interested in the brain. The wine loosened tongues and hearts and before long Edith Turner and Warren TenHouten were doing "high fives" over the joys of neuroanthropology. Meanwhile Este Armstrong was extolling the virtues of the Yakovlev Collection, David Armstrong was deftly avoiding my suggestion that he take over as editor of this newsletter, and Paul Kay was showing his true colors (argh!). I think we all owe Lee a vote of thanks for all of her effort in getting us together. I hope someone else will organize another symposium for next year's AAA meetings, and we can have another bash then as well.

The night before the Blonder symposium, McManus and I were invited to give a talk on biogenetic structuralism before the Washington Evolutionary Systems Society (WESS) , the secretary of which, Bob Crosby , is a member of our network. The meeting was held in a cosy restaurant called the Iron Gate Inn. Our talk was entitled "Cognition, Chaos and the Brain: Explorations in Abduction" and it generated a lot of discussion among one of the most congenial and intellectually active groups of folks it has ever been my pleasure to meet. And the Cornish rock hen was good, too. I would urge any of you interested in complex dynamic systems to join WESS (see NNN 2(1):6 for further details). Their next speaker on December 13 is Guy Lukes on "Neural Networks."

And now for the bad news. The time has come. It was inevitable, really. Our network newsletter has to begin paying its own way. Dean Marshall has been generous with us and has born the cost of the newsletter to the tune of $1000 per year (xeroxing and postage). She will continue to take up the slack until 1991, but by then we have to carry it ourselves. So I would like to suggest the following procedure. Let's try to fund the newsletter by donation, beginning in 1990. If each full member donates $20 per year, and each adjunct member $10 per per year, then we would raise the full amount for 1990. If that works, then we won't have to go to the extreme of charging a subscription fee. If this makes sense to you, then send me a check or money order (Canadian funds!) addressed to "Carleton University" ( NOT made out to me or the network).


I was accepted as a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, loaded the family in the car, and drove to Boulder. Those days at Boulder were the most enjoyable and productive of my life. There were four physical anthropologists on the campus (Brues, Kelso, Greene and Hunter), and I learned from each of them.

The most productive hour I have ever witnessed in science was a seminar in which most of the physical anthropologists and students at the University of Colorado met. Jack Kelso gave the germinative idea: Think of human biology being controlled by culture; Think of the variance; Think of the process as natural law. Within the hour "laws, axioms and corollaries"

ywent around the room with brainstorming speed. The result was the Law of Biocultural Evolution, which turned out to be a testable proposition. I tried it out with the empirical evidence of blood group heterozygosity, and it worked. I published the results with Jack Kelso in the American Anthropologist .

But more to the point of this newsletter, there is some generally assumed association between neuroanthropology and cranial morphology. My own interest has been with theories purporting to explain the variation in cranial size and shape, and that suggest there are some intellectual, cognitive or cultural factors involved in the explanation. It all started as an effort to write a student term paper in the minimum amount of time and work. I was aware of a sentence that Carleton Coon has written: "In regions of great cold, a large head is at an is a round one," and that this hypothesis had never been systematically checked, and moreover that there were all kinds of conveniently available data tables for the cephalic index. It turned out that Coon's hypothesis worked very well indeed. The next obvious question was, to what extent does this biophysical explanation apply to the fossil record? I checked the hominid data, and the mechanism appeared to explain at least part of the evolutionary trend to brachycephalization.

If this is so, then what about the size of the head? If biophysics differentially affects the cranium, then what about interpretations about the size of the brain? It so happened that my cultural anthropology colleague at OSU, Court Smith , had recently completed a computerized mapping system for ethnographic data. We put our brains together and came up with a paper on brains. Actually, this was on endocranial volume instead, but for distributional and statistical studies, the container is more suitable for investigation than is the organ. This work was the genesis of all those distribution maps on absolute and relative brain size which are now available.

There are a few points about geographical distribution that those of you writing about endocranial volume or encephalization might find helpful. One of them is do not rely upon averages you will find in nearly all the literature. These averages are a mess of well intentioned mistakes, such as copying data tables without adjusting for method comparability, sex or distributional representation. What I tried to do was clean up the available information and check the original reports in the original languages. In going through the population data, I ended up with about 20,000 cranial observations on 122 populations which I thought met some kind of relevance and standard. We will never have a perfect data base, but if you accept this one, it indicates that there is less to explain about encephalization than was previously believed. For example, the crude ethnic group average is 1350 cm 3 , the tropical average is 1275 cm 3 . Why has absolute brain size increased so much compared to early hominids? Part of the explanation is that it has not increased so much. Part of the explanation is the increase in body size, the geometric contribution from a rounder cranium, thinner vault, metabolic rate, and differential thermoregulation with the cranium compared to body as a whole.

The question is, do these physical factors explain all of the variance? Is there something left over which might be due to direct cultural or cognitive causation? My own efforts cannot produce a completely physical model which explains all of the variance, but I can come close. I would also emphasize that climatic adaptation is an important variable in this puzzle, but that it clearly fails to explain parts of it. Is the unexplained variance a reflection of cognitive adaptation? Is it sampling error with the data? Is it the result of some unknown physical factor? The only answer is that, as of now, we do not know.

There are, of course, problems in ascertaining the evolutionary change in relative brain size among hominids, due to small sample size and required estimation of body size. However, when I use the best estimates available to me, it turns out the change is not as great as is almost universally assumed. I end up with calculations indicating that Lower Pleistocene hominids average 5-10 cm 3 less endocranial volume per kg of body weight than does modern man. Perhaps this difference in relative brain size is an indication that the function of the organ does increase the relative size of the organ. However, when we examine modern populations, we find they vary by 13 cm 3 /kg, and with no known cognitive significance.

So, does such indirect evidence bear upon how the brain functions? All I can tell you is that there does exist a wealth of tantalizing clues that cranial morphology could be related to some function of its insides, but that every effort so far made to produce a direct connection has failed to demonstrate one -- at least according to the normal standards of scientific evidence and skepticism. During the last fifty years, progress has been made in testing and documenting the models of human brain size in terms of body size, allometry, thermoregulation, metabolic rate, and geometry. Most of the puzzle of human encephalization has been solved with no direct connection to how we think or behave. But there remain the missing pieces which appear to exist at least in certain times and places during our evolutionary past.

I believe there is something "special" about brain size because virtually every authority, book and monograph tells me there is. I teach and write this dogma because it is the concensus of anthropological opinion: there is something meaningful about the size of a hominid brain, which has some kind of implication with respect to its owner's taxon, race, culture, intellect or behavior. However, when I test these beliefs, I can find no reasonably convincing evidence for them. Maciej Henneberg is a polish refugee who has written extensively (in the West German physical anthropology journal, Homo ) on cranial capacity and interpretive problems. In a word, his work emphasizes the gradualism of cranial capacity evolution, body size as the cause of its variation, and the probable lack of causal connections between brain size and intelligence. In my own review in that journal, I tried to explain the reasons why researchers believe certain things about heads and brains. One of them I believe myself is that ECV is empirically correlated with tests of intelligence. However, until shown otherwise, I am pretty much convinced that any randomly selected measure of body size will show the same small, but positive correlation. I think this reflects more favorable environmental conditions during individual ontogenesis. You can test this. Measure the head size and IQ scores of subjects. Then measure their feet and knee caps. Now, run the correlations and see what you get!

Court Smith and I decided to check the ethnographic literature for cultural patterns which might help to explain variations in ECV. We took the population ECV data and ran the correlations for 62 cultural variables, and the results are presented in the paper summarized separately in this issue of NNN . There are some interesting tidbits suitable for cocktail conversation. For example, societies with large families have bigger brains, while those who segregate adolescents have smaller brains. If you want a really big brain, avoid premarital sex. Pay particular attention to inheriting property and the type of roof you have on your hut.

In a more serious vein, there are far more significant correlations between absolute and relative cranial capacities than can be expected by chance alone. However, we went a bit further and checked the same correlations with other anthropometric variables. It turns out that all the anthropometrics we checked have more significant correlations with cultural traits than expected by chance alone. In fact, the shape of the nose is a considerably better statistical predictor of cultural traits than is the volume of the brain case. We do think that subsistence patterns indirectly tell us something about cranial capacity, and we cannot rule out some possible cognitive effects upon the trait which may be associated with the evolution of subsistence patterns.

Publications (co-authored with Martin Reinbold, Tim Baugh, Steve Dodd, Court Smith and Janine McFarland) which have some relevance to cranial morphology are: "Head Form and Climatic Stress." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 37:85-92 (1972); "Climate and the Evolution of Brachycephalization." AJPA 62:425-437 (1983); "Brain Size, Cranial Morphology, Climate and Time Machines." Current Anthropology 25:301-330 (1984); "Variation with Human Cranial Module." CA 26:514-516 (1985); "Paleontology and Anthropometrics Data Base." World Cultures 3 (1987); "Problems and Issues with Human Brain Size, Body Size and Cognition." Homo 37:148-160 (1987); Biocultural Evolution (Burgess, 1989); and "Cultural Correlates with Cranial Capacity." American Anthropologist (in press).

My address is Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA, Ph: (503) 737-4515 (O), Ph: (503) 745-5030 (H), e-mail: bealsk@orstvm.bitnet.


The following is a description of the Ph.D. work in neuroanthropology being completed by Rachelle Doody, M.D. in the Department of Anthropology, Rice University:

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Franz Gall advanced the idea of localized mental facilities even prior to his now infamous ideas about phrenology. The debate between localizers and non-localizers of brain function escalated until the mid-19th century when Broca, to his own chagrin, decided that the left inferior frontal convolution must be the seat of articulate language. Subsequent work within neurology has been largely a variation on his theme that a specific lateralized brain region accounted for the uniquely human ability to link ideas with articulation. Although the variation between theories of the diagram makers (such as Wernicke and Lichtheim) versus the more vaguely localizing theorists (like Jackson, Freud and Luria) is interesting, it is too involved to report on here. For present purposes it is sufficient to point out that 20th century theories about aphasia within neurology have been overwhealmingly inclined toward: 1) localization of specific language functions, or 2) classification of syndromes based on neuropsychological data.

Besides neurologists, linguists have been the other academic group most interested in aphasia. Linguists and anthropologists have influenced aphasia studies directly and indirectly since at least Broca's time. One of my projects has been to systematically examine the interface between linguistic and neurological theories of aphasia, which I have approached first historically and then as the object of a sort of postmodern critique. The historical approach showed me that aphasiologists read the works of various linguists and language theorists (Hovelique, Schleicher, Saussure, Sapir and Whorf for example) and adopted some of their terminology, often without reexploring their own classification systems. This has resulted in descriptions of clinical syndromes that are incoherent to most linguists; for example, the use of the term "agrammatism" to describe patients with anterior aphasia. On the other hand, linguistic theories have aligned themselves with a modeling paradigm that either mentions in passing or ignores issues concerning localization in the brain. Historically, then, linguistic models have not helped to classify patients, have not generated viable remediation strategies, and have been largely discarded by clinical neurology. In the last 40 or 50 years the interaction between cognitive psychology and clinical aphasiology has resulted in a well-defined sub-field which uses linguistic modeling to study aphasic speech.

One postmodern critique of these earlier works on aphasia begins by entering the orality-literacy debate that, with Ong's help, has generated a whole discourse within anthropology. I am particularly interested in knowing how literacy has influenced what characteristics of an aphasic's speech are considered important. These characteristics define a nosology and a map of language in the brain that has remained relatively unchanged since 1900. Every clinician knows that the accepted clinical syndromes almost never occur in patients and are only useful as indices to relate the case at hand to prior cases. Yet the classification persists, as do attepts to relate its entities to regions of the brain using better and better imaging techniques.

Another postmodern critique might begin with an attepts to understand linguistics and the way in which language is constructed by linguists. This critique quickly identifies the science of linguistics as a fallacy of representation and begins to deconstruct notions of presence, especially self-presence, within writing. If it stays with writing this critique argues for some new writing that is free of presence and liberated from speech, as Derrida would have it. If the critique turns, instead, toward the conflicts between representation (of speech/language) and communication-between-individuals, it is more like Tyler's version of postmodern anthropology, which has discourse as its object and its means. Discourse, for Tyler, is a performance which requires the mutual constitution of signs and signified in a "kenetic process of saying." Postmodern ethnography must create a break from everyday speech in order to accomplish its ends. I am interested in exploring this kind of performance break in discourse with aphasic patients.

There is one other postmodern critique, and it is one that actually uses aphasia as discourse. This is the critique that occupies me the most lately. In this approach aphasic writing (because you cannot represent aphasic speech) is used to explore the relationship between voice and writing as discussed by Derrida in an earlier critique. This process comes close to the stated aim of certain linguists who would like to use aphasia in order to "test" their models of language. It also bears a similarity to the notion of "anthropology as cultural critique" which, when applied to language in this way, informs anthropology's past as well as its present.

I wish to further explore the use of discourse linguistics in aphasic speech, beginning with a study of the semantics of sentence accent in the aphasic speech of Alzheimer's patients.

Note: See Walter Ong's Positions, Writing and Difference , Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology , and Stephen Tyler's The Said and the Unsaid and The Unspeakable .


George Pollard passed on an essay published in a recent issue of Columbia Journalism Review by psychologist, Daniel Goleman . Goleman makes the interesting distinction between Reptilian News (news we react to out of our old, reptilian brain, like plane crashes, earthquakes and other events that threaten us personally) and Thinking News (news that comes on slowly and that engages our cortex and requires lots of thought, like environmental deterioration, like the 14,000 kids that die each day from diarrhea caused by bad food and water).

Goleman says, "For millenia, Reptilian News -- in its beastly form, as warning calls and cries -- helped to insure the survival of species. Today, news of lasting consequence, of those events that will have a drastic impact on our species and planet, demands the involvement of another part of the brain: the cerebral cortex -- the thinking part of the brain. ...[The cortex] reflects, inquires freely and deeply, ponders, weighs, comes up with innovative responses. It questions and looks for fresh answers. The cortex demands Thinking News -- explanatory journalism that provides context, draws out implications, makes connections, gives meaning. While Reptilian News describes incidents in isolation from their context, Thinking News describes the conditions that underlie those incidents and teases out patterns that connect an incident to a larger web of meaning. ...Reptilian News tells us only what we need to know for our personal survival, to save our necks. Thinking News can tell us what we need to know to survive as a species. And in times like these we can't do without it."


Erhard Oeser and Franz Seitelberger, Gehirn, Bewusstsein und Erkenntnis , Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, West Germany, 1988 (Volume 2 of Dimensionen der modernen Biologie ). 205 + xii pages, 18 illustrations. ISBN 3-534-02532-6.

In discussions of the relationship between the mind and the brain, one key source of illumination is often overlooked - evolutionary theory. Evolution is important because it suggests that structures such as the brain and mind are present because they serve a function . In the solution proposed by Erhard Oeser, a philosopher specializing in the history and theory of science, and Franz Seitelberger, a neurologist and psychiatrist, the function of both is to control action .

Brain, Mind, and Knowledge is in three parts. It begins with Oeser's discussion of the history and current state of the debate about the mind-brain problem. While the prehistoric practice of trepanation and the accounts of operations on the brain provided in the "Papyrus Smith" indicate that there has long been some type of awareness of a relationship between the brain and the mind, the author suggests that Alcmaeon of Crotone (6th century B.C.) was the first to actually study the brain in light of perceptual and epistemological issues. Following a short discussion of other early ideas, Oeser turns to more recent neurophysiological work. This leads into a discussion of modern attempts to resolve the mind-brain problem, including Identity theory, Functionalism, Interactionism, and the evolutionary epistemology of Konrad Lorenz. The section concludes with a consideration of Constructivist and Representationalist models.

Upon this basis, Seitelberger then discusses the brain itself. He begins by considering its evolution, anatomy, and physiology. The author goes into some detail describing the structure of the brain, concentrating in particular upon the cortical modules first described by Szentágothai. He concludes that the brain does not produce precise copies of reality, but rather approximate models. Because these models serve as the basis of motor activity, the brain's function may be characterized as outwardly directed and intentional. Moreover, knowledge may be characterized as a hierarchy of stages of abstraction leading from perception to categorization.

Oeser returns for the final section of the book. In it, he draws up a program for a "neuroepistemology" to link neurobiology and traditional epistemology within a higher-level, more abstract terminology compatible with both. The key to this approach is to view the brain as an information processing system and knowledge as an informational process. The brain functions to reduce and convert the immense amount of information it is provided by the senses into models of the world. Mind represents an expansion of the brain's abilities, enabling an active goal and plan oriented interaction with the environment.

Oeser and Seitelberger consider two points of crucial importance for any serious attempt to resolve the mind-brain problem. First, they overcome the frequent shortcoming referred to above by asking about the functions of both the brain and mind. Second, both authors understand that solutions to the mind-brain problem must come through empirical research and not by philosophizing. Thus, neuroepistemology should be understood as a scientific model for approaching the old philosophical problem of knowledge and the means through which it is obtained. The basis of the model is the concept of intentionality - a functional intentionality which makes it possible for the individual to actively shape her world.

Gehirn, Bewusstsein und Erkenntnis is hampered by a problem not uncommon in discussions of the mind-brain problem and the nature of knowledge, where even the most brilliant discussions often walk a tightrope between cogency and obscurantism. In the present case, the authors' arguments are clouded by a conceptual confusion resulting from the use of Bewusstsein to refer to the mind as well as consciousness (its usual translation). As a result, a variety of questions that are recondite at the best of times become even more difficult. What is more, the authors have chosen not to include a complete list of references cited. As a result, any reader interested in tracking down some of the works mentioned in the text will have to spend some time in the library.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, Gehirn, Bewusstsein und Erkenntnis should be of interest to scholars with a strong grounding in epistemology and the mind-brain problem. Because of the overlapping of concepts, however, other readers may end up with more questions than answers. For anyone looking for a more accessible introduction to these topics, Popper and Eccles' The Self and Its Brain remains their best bet.

John Baker

Garden Grove, CA


On February 1-4, 1990, an interdisciplinary group of scientists and clinicians will gather to address the scientific basis and clinical management of psychophysiological trauma of unexplained origin (e.g., trauma involving the recall of alien abduction). The relationships between neural and other levels of physical/non-physical reality is, of course, of the greatest significance in this investigation. The purpose of this meeting is to foster the emergence of a firm scientific and conceptual basis for further investigation and appropriate clinical intervention. A full day of workshops designed for investigators and clinicians working with cases of experienced anomalous trauma will take place on January 31, 1990. The workshops and conference will be co-sponsored by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and will be limited to approximately 100 participants. Continuing education units will be awarded. Continuing medical education accreditation is also anticipated. Proceedings of the meeting will be published. For further information please contact:

Rima E. Laibow, M.D.

13 Summit Terrace

Dobb's Ferry,

NY 10522, USA

(914) 693-8827


The human brain-mind is capable of modelling in its own image particular features of its cognitive faculty and the method of modelling follows the postmodern tenet of the medium being the message. Information is created through the very shapes, forms and operations of self-organizing parallel distributed processing (PDP) neural, or neuron-like structures. The ruleless functioning of PDP nets model the working of the mammalian brain "the only organ that develops by experiencing itself." Meaning, however, has to be supplied by the designer of the network, except when the pattern to be recognized by the system is the outcome of the functioning of the system itself. This is self-creation of meaning: what the system perceives is determined by the way it perceives, and -- closing the hermeneutic circle -- how the system perceives is determined by what the system is capable of perceiving. Self-creation of meaning (on the level of perception-(re-)cognition) may be the transsubstantiation of a-temporal and a-spatial sub-stance to substance with form, a process by which the universe is made to exist as image and thought.

Due to the mass action of the neuronal system, intelligence -- that is, the problem solving capacity -- may be measured with reaction time (RT) that correlates well with I.Q. tests in populations that also include exceptionally retarded as well as gifted individuals. Another time measure of intelligence (on an interspecies level) is lifespan which correlates with body size. But humans live three times longer (in comparison with 63 mammalian species from the shrew to the whale) than what would be expected due to body size. In effect, this is because of our larger brain and surface of the neocortex. It is evolutionary intelligence (of a large, interconnected brain system) that enables humanity to beat the 2nd law of thermodynamics and to (temporarily) endure 3 times longer than does any mammalian species of comparable size.

Intelligence may be redefined within a more global context as matter's self-reflection in the image of an immense variety of (still) evolving species. Self-reflection, then, in the Gibsonian terminology of "direct perception" refers to the perception of a given pattern through resonance between a given structure "out there" and matter's sensorium, the internal perceptual-cognitive network of its species. The adaptive resonance theory of Grossberg [see sources received below] updates and specifies Gibson's model by describing in differential equasions a self-organizing, self-stabilizing neural network architecture that can build up a world view of (Kantian) categories. Raw sense data from "out there" combine with the associations from the past and resonate until a coherent image is formed. What resonates in Grossberg's model is a cloud of neurons whose feedback responds to patterns as they are experienced. Thus the elements of experience are a set of short term memories whose physical counterparts are resonating neuron clouds. The conscious experience of daily routine, then, is a pattern-matching game between novelties perceived and known patterns.

Oh well, in spite of all this progress, excitement and optimism in our understanding of intelligence, perhaps it is fundamentally impossible to totally idealize and rationalize the universe. It just might be richer than the mind.

Roland Fischer

Mallorca, Spain


Courtland L. Smith and Kenneth L Beals have recently written a paper entitled "Cultural Correlates with Cranial Capacity" ( American Anthropologist , in press). This paper clarifies a persistent question about the relation cultural factors have with hominid encephalization. Measures of endocranial volume are correlated with 62 cultural variables for 93 ethnographic populations. Data indicate that cranial capacity is no more associated with cultural traits than is morphology in general. A possible connection with evolution of subsistence patterns is suggested. Latitude (as a proxy for climate), body size, and subsistence pattern appears to be the best predictive model for cranial capacity. However, sampling and data limitations preclude definitive conclusions.


According to the Daily Science News of the National Research Council of Canada (July 5, 1989), the Japanese government has instituted a program of brain research called the Human Frontier Science Programme which will administer funds upwards of $45 million dollars over the next three years. The programme will focus on two research areas. The first is basic studies on the way the human brain functions using new technologies for tracking chemical changes in the brain and computer simulations. The second area is the molecular level of biological functioning. The Japanese envision having a small secretariat located possibly in London to administer grants to researchers all over the world.


F.T. (Ted) Cloak, Jr., UNM Accounting Systems, Scholes Hall 260, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA, e-mail:

David Kahn, 352 Harvard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

M.L. Lyon, Department of Prehistory & Anthropology, The Australian National University, GPO Box 4, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia, Ph: 062-49 5111.

Mario G. Maldonado, Calle Sucre 608, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador.

David Molson, 208-2865 Cedarwood Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1V 0G8, Canada.

C.U.M. Smith, Vision Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK, Ph: 021-359-3611, e-mail:


Hobson, J. Allan (1988) The Dreaming Brain . NY: Basic Books. [discusses brain-based dream research, the history of sleep and dreaming research, and presents a model of the dreaming brain]

Cohen, Avis H. et al. (1988) Neural Control of Rhythmic Movements in Vertebrates . NY: Wiley. [circadian and other rhythms]

Grossberg, S. (1987) The Adaptive Brain . Amsterdam: North-Holland. [a very complex but unified model of neural functioning]

Persinger, Michael A. (1987) Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs . NY: Praeger. [finds the functioning of the temporal lobe to be involved in God Experience; predictable attributes of religious experience]