Chimpanzee Brain Connectivity Atlas

Researchers visualize connections in the chimpanzee brain

June 03, 2024

The question of how the human brain has developed over the course of evolution can possibly only be answered through comparisons with our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, have now presented a freely accessible map of high-resolution MRI data that shows the comprehensive brain structure of chimpanzees.

"Our research approach focuses primarily on understanding the connections between different regions in the chimpanzee brain and how these findings can contribute to a better understanding of the human brain. This connectivity enables the exchange of information and is crucial for the functioning of complex processes in the brain, such as human language," says Cornelius Eichner, first author of the study. "A particular challenge is to replace animal experiments with ethically sustainable research," emphasizes Alfred Anwander, last author of the study. "To this end, a new tomography method was developed that makes it possible to examine the brains of naturally deceased chimpanzees from the wild or from zoos."

"These MRI data offer an impressive level of detail that goes far beyond previously possible measurements. Not only do they give us a better understanding of the chimpanzee brain, but they also open up the possibility of transferring these findings to the human brain. In terms of the language network and other nerve fiber connections, this data set allows us to make a comparison with our closest living evolutionary relatives, with whom we share a last common ancestor around seven million years ago," Eichner continues.

Openly accessible data

Together with the data, the researchers present an innovative and validated method for 3D imaging of the complex nerve fiber structures. In this way, the complicated neuronal connections and networks in the chimpanzee brain become visible and, with the openly accessible data, can also be used by other scientists. This resource can therefore make a significant contribution to better understanding the evolution of the human brain and to advancing research in this field. The "Chimpanzee Brain Connectivity Atlas" with all data is available here:



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