PerspectiveBrain Evolution

Knowing when to fold them

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Science  03 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6243, pp. 31-32
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac6531

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Almost 100 years ago, in an influential book titled On Growth and Form, D'Arcy Thompson called for the integration of biology with mathematics and physics (1). Fulfillment of his vision has been slow, but more and more scientists are heeding Thompson's call, attempting to explain problems of “growth and form” through physics and mathematics. An excellent example of this trend is the report by Mota and Herculano-Houzel (2) on page 74 of this issue. They provide a novel mathematical description of how the degree of neocortical folding in mammalian brains varies with other biological parameters, notably cortical thickness and surface area, and they offer the crumpling of a paper ball as a physical model to explain the observed scaling rules.