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Evolution granted the human mind unique neural networks

Wim Vanduffel, a neurology professor at Harvard University Medical School, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (in Flanders, Belgium), have published an interesting new study examining how the human brain differs from the brain of Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta).

According to the study authors, it was hypothesized that humans have different functional cortical networks than monkey brains, as a product of evolution.  However, most research thus far has focused on similar activity between monkey and human brains.

The new study uses a burgeoning brain imaging technique -- fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) -- to detect activity in the brain as evidenced by bloodflow changes.  Monkeys were found to have one unique network active during movie watching, while humans had two other unique networks.

Rhesus macaque
Rhesus macaque monkey [Image Source: Mark Snelson]

Describes Professor Vanduffel:

We did functional brain scans in humans and rhesus monkeys at rest and while watching a movie to compare both the place and the function of cortical brain networks. Even at rest, the brain is very active. Different brain areas that are active simultaneously during rest form so-called 'resting state' networks. For the most part, these resting state networks in humans and monkeys are surprisingly similar, but we found two networks unique to humans and one unique network in the monkey.

When watching a movie, the cortex processes an enormous amount of visual and auditory information. The human-specific resting state networks react to this stimulation in a totally different way than any part of the monkey brain. This means that they also have a different function than any of the resting state networks found in the monkey. In other words, brain structures that are unique in humans are anatomically absent in the monkey and there no other brain structures in the monkey that have an analogous function. Our unique brain areas are primarily located high at the back and at the front of the cortex and are probably related to specific human cognitive abilities, such as human-specific intelligence.

Humans and Rhesus monkeys are thought to have diverged on the evolutionary tree around 25 million years ago.

The new study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.  Dante Mantini, a researcher at KU Leuven and D'Annunzio University in Chianti, Italy was listed as the first author.

Sources: KU Leuven, The Journal of Neuroscience



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RE: Meh
By M'n'M on 2/26/2013 3:10:06 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps the title should have been "Study Confirms How SOME Human Brains Differ from Monkey Brains".


RE: Meh
By geekman1024 on 2/26/2013 3:36:37 AM , Rating: 2
"Study Confirms How SOME Human Brains works SAME AS Monkey Brains"

More appropriate.


RE: Meh
By FaaR on 2/26/2013 12:19:25 PM , Rating: 2
Would have been more interesting if they'd studied ape brains instead, as monkeys evolved separately from our ancestors. We're not directly related.


RE: Meh
By Graviton on 2/26/2013 7:53:56 PM , Rating: 3
Chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons are more closely related to us than the species used in this experiment. Chimps are our closest living relatives. However, we aren't descended from any of them. They are our cousins. We have ancestors in common with them, but no living examples exist since they all evolved into these different things or died off.


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