When I was in biology class in college (13 years ago mind you!) I asked this to my professor (who did not have an answer). "Is there any link between the body temperature of an animal and whether or not it is intelligent?"
Why had I come up with this question so early in my little life? Has anyone else come up with this question or done research on the subject? I have no idea.
As I got into the medical field and started learning physiology more and more, the question returned to me. I keep thinking about it, all the time.
If our brain gets too cold (just 4 degrees Fahrenheit is enough), our brain shuts down, slowing our body functions almost to a stop. The brain can survive, but not very long, unless the cooling process was very rapid. If it was a slow cooling process, then it starts to die before it shuts itself off. Some people call this state torpor, I prefer hibernation. Anyhow, my point here is is that our thought processes and logic parts of our brain shut off first. In some cases, our "instincts" (yes, people still do retain a few of these) take over, and we become very animal-like. Even our secondary emotions are shut off, the primary ones only allowed to surface. In most instances, especially where people are drowning in icy cold water (the most common reason for brain cooling) panic is the primary emotion, and it doesn't necessarily do the person any good without the thought processes to help the person figure out what to do). And, in the case to which I was referring, everything happens so fast, that we really don't get a chance to observe ourselves in our animal-state. Survival is achieved if the person is warmed adequately and rapidly back to our normal 98.6.
On the opposite side, if we start to run a fever, we start killing off brain cells. At 102 and 103 degrees, we will feel chilled and be diaphoretic (very sweaty -- also known as cold sweats or night sweats). You brain can tolerate this temperature, but it prefers that the body do some resting, so you will also feel tired or non-energetic. But if the fever gets up to 104, and stays there for any length of time, bad things happen. Once again, our thought and logic processes suffer. People start becoming listless, and even unresponsive. The mind ceases functioning, just as it did when it started getting too cold. The brain keeps working, but the mind does not.
Knowing all of this brought back my question. In order for a brain to have a working mind, is it necessary that the brain be at a specific temperature?
As humans, we consider ourselves as an intelligent species (although some of us could refute that), so one would first have to assume that the temperature be somewhere in the vicinity of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering what temperatures our mind shuts down around, we would deduce that the range of temperature a brain could have to retain a mind be approximately 96 to 102 degrees... a very small range, indeed, just 6 degrees. And the brain would have to maintain this temperature its entire lifespan.
About the only living bodies on our planet that do this are mammals and birds. Fish and lizards are cold blooded animals, so their body temperatures, and thus the temperature of their brains, is based on the temperature of their environment. There is no fish nor lizard on this planet that is considered intelligent, nor do I believe, based on my above statements, can there ever be.
In the last year, I started researching body temperatures of a whole bunch of animals, and what their relative intelligence is considered to be. I found myself quite shocked.
First of all, people are about the only animal who's body temperature stays almost exactly the same. Most other animals have a range that they normally fall in. And sometimes their body temperature ranges were as great as 12 degrees, and they were still considered healthy.
What else did I find?
The closer an animal's body temperature range was to ours (96 to 102), the more the scientific community considered that animal intelligent. Dolphins and whales, horses and primates were the animals that seemed to be the closest to human in body temperature range. Of those, the horse had the longest range, and is considered a high-medium intelligent creature (I guess we're high-high).
So, in my limited research, it does seem that perhaps the temperature of the brain has something to do with intelligence.
NOT SO FAST!!!
What about the octopus?
Here is a cold-blooded creature of the sea (not a fish!) which many scientists will state is as intelligent, if not more so, than a human.
What is this? An octopus more intelligent than a human? Could be.
And, as I've mentioned, it is a cold-blooded critter.
Well, there goes that theory all shot to hell!
Well, maybe not... the question of whether an octopus is intelligent or is just persistent in trying to get that crab from the inside of a glass jar is still being debated.
Personally, I would think it was great if it was discovered that octopuses are more intelligent than we are. But I'm not going to hold my breath. I want people to start thinking about: "what if" we had developed at the wrong body temperature? "What if" the baboon was the one that had the proper range (considering if this theory has any merit) and it wasn't Aryx the human writing, but Aryx the baboon (which some of you probably think of me as anyhow!)?