Think small: diminishing returns in neuroscience

If you reverse engineer an animal’s behavioural strategy by asking how an animal would solve a task under specific constraints and then work out the optimal solution, you’ll find it’s often the case that animals are pretty close to optimal. Guillaume Hennequin As in economics, there is a law of diminishing returns in neuroscience – doubling the investment going in doesn’t equal double the performance coming out. With a bigger brain comes more available resources that can be allocated to certain tasks, but everything has a cost, and evolution weighs the costs against the benefits in order to make the most efficient system. “Larger brains are specialised for high performance, so there’s a definite advantage to being bigger and better,” says Professor Simon Laughlin of the Department of Zoology, whose…

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