Monday, September 01, 2014

Nutrition and the Brain

If I only had a brain...

Steve Hsu links to some papers discussing nutrition and the brain. In childhood the proportion of nutrition consumed by the brain is particularly prodigious:

The metabolic costs of brain development are thought to explain the evolution of humans’ exceptionally slow and protracted childhood growth; however, the costs of the human brain during development are unknown. We used existing PET and MRI data to calculate brain glucose use from birth to adulthood. We find that the brain’s metabolic requirements peak in childhood, when it uses glucose at a rate equivalent to 66% of the body’s resting metabolism and 43% of the body’s daily energy requirement, and that brain glucose demand relates inversely to body growth from infancy to puberty. Our findings support the hypothesis that the unusually high costs of human brain development require a compensatory slowing of childhood body growth.

It's well known the under-nutrition in childhood depresses adult height. Even though the brain probably gets priority, it is very likely that a similar effect affects adult brains. Steve thinks this may be linked to the Flynn effect.