domingo, 6 de noviembre de 2011

Chimp, bonobo study sheds light on the social brain

I have often heard that humans are more closely related to the common chimpanzee than any other animal. A recent study led by James Rilling seems to have shown that, at least emotionally, humans have more in common with the other member of the Pan genus, the bonobo. An analysis of the brains and the behaviors of the two species brought Rilling to this conclusion. He claims that the parts of the brain in humans that control anxiety, empathy, and aggression are more similar to that of the bonobo than the chimpanzee.

Evolutionarily speaking, chimpanzees and bonobos are very closely related (they speciated about two million years ago), yet socially the two act in a very dissimilar manner. Bonobos are more anxious, socially tolerant, playful, sexual, and less aggressive than chimpanzees are. Using non-invasive neuro-scanning technology Rilling was able to compare the gray and white matters of the two monkeys. The results were conclusive with Rilling’s hypothesis, the bonobo have much more developed limbic systems than the chimps did. The limbic system is the “emotional” part of the brain, with components related to such feelings as empathy. Bonobos are actually capable of feeling remorse for their actions according to Rilling. We may still share more alleles with chimps than any other animal, but it is interesting that despite this there is an animal out there we can relate to more emotionally.

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