Sangeetha Pulapaka

    It's a common attitude in modern society that persons with extraordinary talent are simply wired differently than everyone else. The notion is reinforced by findings of differences in brain structure between persons with different talents, abilities, and even neurological disorders. In contrast, if there is one thing that neuroscientists are sure of, it's that the human brain is highly "plastic"—capable of overcoming disease and even rewiring itself after injury. There is new emerging evidence that many of the differences aren't really there, and the human brain is capable of re-wiring at need.

    The notion of "wired differently" has its basis in developmental neuroscience and is omnipresent in popular psychology and social behavior, so it is no wonder that it has also influenced popular fiction. Therefore, this essay will not only examine the science behind the functional wiring and structure of the human brain, it will also look into how these ideas (true or not) have made some key appearances in science fiction.

    It is common to conduct medical research in nonhuman primates—rhesus monkeys, for example—in order to have a research model that is     close     to human, without the myriad difficulties of working in humans. By this I mean that the monkeys tend not to get bored, they can perform memory tasks in the absence of work and school schedules, and they tend not to spend much time on social media! (They do like cat videos, though.) Figure 1, shows the progression in brain size and shape from rodents to humans, so you can see how a monkey brain may be much more suitable to the study of brain function than a rat.

    The key piece of information to be gained from this comparison is that human brains have unique structure and function in these two brain regions to support hearing, reading and speaking language—most primate brains do not! The exception, of course is the Great Apes, but even there, Broca's and Wernicke's areas are much smaller and less developed than in humans. Here, then, is the clear indication that at least one element of the human brain is clearly wired for a specific function! So yes, humans are wired for language.

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