In our next Journal Club, to be held November the 14th at 11 a.m. in the “Seminari de Psicologia” (Ed. Guillem Cifre, Campus UIB), we will have an invited speaker. Emeritus Professor Michael Walker of University of Murcia will give a talk entitled:
“Palaeoneurophysiology and cognitive evolution in Pleistocene Homo: Biological and palaeoanthropological perspectives on the role of “haptic” working memory in the evolution of long-term procedural memory; drawing neuroscience and palaeoanthropology together. “
Evolution in Early Pleistocene Homo of enhanced implicit nondeclarative procedural long-term memory is inferred from the Palaeolithic record of tool-making and manual dexterity, which implies a complex relationship between haptic memory and prospective memory in early humans that has left scant trace in the palaeoneurological record of early fossil skulls of our genus. Neurophysiological considerations drawn from research into the brain are compatible with co-evolution between development inHomo of early Palaeolithic behaviour, tool-making in particular, and cerebral neuronal architecture and circuitry underpinning the enhancement of memory, attention, technological aptitude, and cognitive versatility. Whereas working memory, prospective memory, and long-term memory are distributed widely in our cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum, it is noteworthy that regulatory neuronal activity facilitating their integration involves, above all, medially-situated cerebral components on which neuroscientific research is shedding light. During the Early and Middle Pleistocene there was a gradual process of evolution that brought about their integration with not only a developing neuronal substrate for tool-use in the left-sided supramarginal gyrus of our inferior parietal lobule, but also a developing neuronal substrate in our anterior prefrontal cortex for control of attention to the task in hand, literally as well as figuratively speaking, one outcome of which is a human facility for multitasking. It is inferred that gene-culture co-evolution took place involving enhancement at the neuronal level of procedural long-term memory and at the behavioural level of enhanced cognitive flexibility. Nevertheless, natural selection favoured innate protective conservatism in the mirror-neurone system, which assuredly was a strong brake on innovative imitative learning. Moreover, If H. erectus/ergaster did not have adolescence as we know it, then integration of its hippocampal-prefrontal cortical activity was less complete than is ours, and therefore was less able to retain prospective memory or engage in multitasking.