Study Confirms How Human Brains Differ from Monkey Brains
February 25, 2013 9:28 PM
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Evolution granted the human mind unique neural networks
, a neurology professor at
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
(in Flanders, Belgium), have published an interesting new study examining how the human brain differs from the brain of Rhesus monkeys (
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 -- f
MRI (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.
monkey [Image Source: Mark Snelson]
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
The Journal of Neuroscience
, a researcher at KU Leuven and
in Chianti, Italy was listed as the first author.
The Journal of Neuroscience
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
Could differences come from...
2/26/2013 4:46:43 PM
...the fact that when we watch a movie, context helps us understand and think about what's going on while the movie might appear as pointless "noise" to a monkey? For instance, if people are talking in the movie, surely our brains would be engaged deciphering language, or maybe a scene showing some sort of nature might remind us of a vacation we once had. Similarly, monkeys might have their own experiences that are triggered in a way we wouldn't understand.
I'm no scientist though. Oh, and am I the only one who immediately thought of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom upon reading "Monkey Brains" in the title? I haven't seen that movie since I was very young - the banquet scene really left an impression ("chilled monkey brains").
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