March 31, 2014
Big Brain, Bigger Helmets
After human beings became bipedal, our brains also evolved, becoming bigger. We’re now carrying around almost 3 pounds of brain per person.
What we got with evolution and a bigger brain were many benefits, including a pre-frontal cortex, which helps humans (uniquely in the animal world) to simulate experience. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for integrating past intelligence and present circumstances to simulate outcomes. That prefrontal cortex, however, may not fully develop until late teenagerhood or into a person’s mid-20s!
Our skulls also needed to adapt – with openings called fontanelles so that the skull could contract to allow our bigger heads to pass through the birth canal and then expand for brain growth in our early years (by contrast, chimpanzee brain growth is nearly complete before birth).
Big brains and big skulls mean a need for big helmets. In the first two helmet generations, Nutcase offered two sizes of helmet – small/medium and large/extra large. In some cases, that wasn’t quite enough for the big-headed amongst us.
One of the improvements in our latest generation of helmets – Gen 3 – is increased sizing. There are now three sizes of helmet to choose from – small, medium, and large. The large helmet will accommodate skulls up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) in circumference.
Because that important prefrontal cortex is at the front of your brain, it’s smart to make sure a helmet – any helmet – not just fits but is also properly fitted. That means not too far forward (no eyebrow hugging) and not tipped back, but sitting squarely in the middle of the forehead.
If you were wondering if our brains will continue to expand, the answer is no, in the last 30,000 years our brains have actually shrunk a little. Stress and environmental factors can also cause the brain to shrink as we age. Yet we’ll wrap up Brain Injury Awareness Month with a little good news. Regular endurance exercise not only keeps your heart healthy – it is beneficial for the brain, helping beat depression and allowing us to fortify our brains. What a good motivator for grabbing the helmet and getting on out there.