Metabolic changes in human brain evolution

Amy L. Bauernfeind, Courtney C. Babbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Because the human brain is considerably larger than those of other primates, it is not surprising that its energy requirements would far exceed that of any of the species within the order. Recently, the development of stem cell technologies and single-cell transcriptomics provides novel ways to address the question of what specific genomic changes underlie the human brain's unique phenotype. In this review, we consider what is currently known about human brain metabolism using a variety of methods from brain imaging and stereology to transcriptomics. Next, we examine novel opportunities that stem cell technologies and single-cell transcriptomics provide to further our knowledge of human brain energetics. These new experimental approaches provide the ability to elucidate the functional effects of changes in genetic sequence and expression levels that potentially had a profound impact on the evolution of the human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-211
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • chimpanzee
  • energy
  • gene expression
  • genomics
  • glucose metabolism
  • neuron
  • primate


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