A team led by paleoanthropologist Philipp Gunz of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany has found that there is a marked similarity between the brains of the new born of both humans and Neanderthals. The divergence happens drastically over the first year of life, the scientists reported.

This study is expected to help the paleoanthropologists to learn about the cognitive differences between modern humans and their extinct relatives, and also when, exactly, those differences developed. The research paper was published in the online journal Current Biology.

The scientists worked by scanning the skulls of several Neanderthals, including a new-born, and mapped out the shape of the brain cavity. This was following a research where human and chimpanzee brain shape had been compared and it was found that human brain became round quickly.

The researchers were amazed at the remarkable similarity of the brain shape of both humans and Neanderthals just after birth; they concluded that this could be because of the similar birthing process of the two species. However human brains start to morph within the first year of birth while for Neanderthals the shape remained unchanged.

This indicated a difference in speed of development between the two species. This analysis is expected to help in study of the evolution of human brain.