At the beginning, millions of years ago, bacteria were swallowing mitochondria. This small neighbor was not digested, however. Instead, the bacterium eventually evolved to live in a symbiotic relationship with its mitochondrial counterpart. The bacterium managed life, locomotion, food intake and more, while the mitochondria ensured that there was always plenty of energy available. This connection, or so-called endosymbiotic theory, has existed ever since, which is precisely why this cooperation exists in every cell of our bodies today. Subsequently in further evolutionary stages, other groups of symbiotic life forms joined together. The assimilation into groups assures our own survival and makes life easier.It also facilitates the propagation and thus the transmission of the genotype, the most important goal of every living species. Although co-operation of different individuals leads to the group as a whole becoming stronger there are also disadvantages, namely the loss of freedom. There must be rules to protect survival and good living together within the group.[1]

We humans have our very own tool to engage in symbiotic relationships to further our personal interests – our language. With it we can communicate even if we suffer from a lack of social competence. However, even with our brain being very developed and specialized, clashes in the social setting do persist. And one disadvantage of our high sociality is that we strive for recognition all through our lives.

But what makes us human beings behave in a socially adequate way? Here, too, I address the prefrontal cortex. For it is only a logical conclusion to say that the area of the brain which is often damaged in offenders must be one of the places of our social competence. All our emotions arise from our brain. Our brain, especially the frontal lobe, allows us to express emotions, resolve conflicts, and maintain relationships. In various studies it was found that the size of the prefrontal cortex is linked to the extent of possible interpersonal relationships.

This can be shown by a variety of animal studies. The more friendly comrades a species has the larger the frontal brain. At the same time, the ape with 50 friends and a frontal brain that is very large in the animal world, does not reach the capacity of the human with 150 friends on average and the largest frontal brain. Also, the type of social bonds an animal forms correlates well with the size of the brain. Monogamous animals, such as dolphins, have on average larger brains than animals with frequently changing sexual partners. Eagles live monogamously for a long time and possess a great brain, while our domestic songbirds change their partner every year and have a medium-sized brain. The peacock, who constantly changes his partners, has a small brain.[2]

In a recent study conducted by scientists from several universities in the United States, the brain measure and social behavior of more than 90 different dolphins and whales were examined, linked and evaluated. In this study, the animals were found to show complex social and cooperative behavior. They were able to play, teach, and cooperate. It is also interesting to note the strong correlation between brain size and social behavior. The bigger the brain, the greater the social skills. Dolphins and whales have brain structures different from ours, and therefore do not have as much social and cognitive abilities as we do. However, the question arises as to how different brain structures lead to similar behaviors. Researchers in this large-scale study say that brain size is an evolutionary response to a social environment as it is seen in humans.[3]

Our brain is capable of many social skills. Only with the help of our brains way can we argue, exchange views, and reconcile ourselves. All in the hopes of living in a society while also retaining our own culture. This short article should show how important our brain is to our social relationships, but it is also connected to the theme of Neurolaw. If I live socially through a large pre-frontal cortex, it is also likely that I have antisocial behavior if there are lesions in this area. The exploration of our social brain is important for the future of the link between law and neurosciences.  We now gained a more intricate understanding of the human brain and social behavior. This will serve us well – when reading publications related to Neurolaw as well as when reading other publications of our Rational Think Tank on this platform. As a trial lawyer we should ask ourselves: Would it be relevant to do a medical anamnesis to screen for brain damages? This might constitute a decent defense – at least in some jurisdictions. In the future, the legal profession needs to face the impact of neurological damage on criminals’ behavior. There is a significant need to implement the insights of neuroscience in legislative procedure. The legal profession might be well advised to face the fact that it cannot avoid much more interdisciplinary thinking. We should be curious!


Also see:

Biologische Psychologie, Schandry, Beltz, 1. Auflage, 2003