Differences between chimpanzees and bonobos in neural systems supporting social cognition

Rilling, James K.; Scholz, Jan; Preuss, Todd M.; Glasser, Matthew F.; Errangi, Bhargav K.; Behrens, Timothy E.
April 2012
Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience;Apr2012, Vol. 7 Issue 4, p369
Academic Journal
Our two closest living primate relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus), exhibit significant behavioral differences despite belonging to the same genus and sharing a very recent common ancestor. Differences have been reported in multiple aspects of social behavior, including aggression, sex, play and cooperation. However, the neurobiological basis of these differences has only been minimally investigated and remains uncertain. Here, we present the first ever comparison of chimpanzee and bonobo brains using diffusion tensor imaging, supplemented with a voxel-wise analysis of T1-weighted images to specifically compare neural circuitry implicated in social cognition. We find that bonobos have more gray matter in brain regions involved in perceiving distress in both oneself and others, including the right dorsal amygdala and right anterior insula. Bonobos also have a larger pathway linking the amygdala with the ventral anterior cingulate cortex, a pathway implicated in both top–down control of aggressive impulses as well as bottom–up biases against harming others. We suggest that this neural system not only supports increased empathic sensitivity in bonobos, but also behaviors like sex and play that serve to dissipate tension, thereby limiting distress and anxiety to levels conducive with prosocial behavior.


Related Articles

  • To move or not to move. Liebal, Katja; Call, Josep; Tomasello, Michael; Pika, Simone // Interaction Studies;2004, Vol. 5 Issue 2, p199 

    A previous observational study suggested that when faced with a partner with its back turned, chimpanzees tend to move around to the front of a non-attending partner and then gesture — rather than gesturing once to attract attention and then again to convey a specific intent. We...

  • Waging peace. Ingmanson, Ellen J.; Kano, Takayoshi // International Wildlife;Nov/Dec93, Vol. 23 Issue 6, p30 

    Focuses on the bonobos of Zaire. Displays of human-like behavior; Peaceful societies; Resemblance to the Australopithecines; Physical distinction from chimpanzees; Identification of individuals; Use of tools to communicate complex ideas; Presence of choice of females; Absence of sexual...

  • Make Love, Not War. Fraser, Stephen // Current Science;5/6/2005, Vol. 90 Issue 16, p9 

    Presents information on the differences between chimpanzee and bonobo.

  • Kissing cousins. Carey, Benedict; Spalenka, Greg // Health (Time Inc. Health);Mar/Apr93, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p88 

    Discusses how, when it comes to love and sex, humans behave surprisingly like bonobo chimps. The rituals; Frans de Waal, ethologist/researcher at Emory University's Yerkes Primate Center; Sharing 98.4 percent of our genes with bonobo and common chimps; Similarities; Wild Animal Park near San...

  • Evolution: Domesticated apes.  // Nature;6/14/2012, Vol. 486 Issue 7402, p161 

    The article presents a study Brian Hare and colleagues regarding the difference between the apes bonobo or Pan paniscus and chimpanzee or Pan troglodytes.

  • Bonobo Back-flip. McGhee, Karen // Nature Australia;Summer2001-2002, Vol. 27 Issue 3, p15 

    Reveals that results emerging from studies on wild Bonobos in the Congo indicate that Bonobos and Chimpanzees are not different as previously thought. When sex for chimpanzees occurs; How chimpanzees are widely regarded among animal behavioralists; Comparison of female Bonobos to their chimp...

  • Chimpanzees do not take into account what others can hear in a competitive situation. Bräuer, Juliane; Call, Josep; Tomasello, Michael // Animal Cognition;Jan2008, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p175 

    Chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes) know what others can and cannot see in a competitive situation. Does this reflect a general understanding the perceptions of others? In a study by Hare et al. () pairs of chimpanzees competed over two pieces of food. Subordinate individuals preferred to approach...

  • Pygmy chimpanzee.  // Encyclopedia of Animals;8/1/2017, p1 

    Pygmy chimpanzees are very good at climbing around on trees very high in the air. They can even walk upright along a branch that is as high as 160 feet above ground. This is similar to tightrope walking at the circus.

  • Bonobos Respond to Distress in Others: Consolation across the Age Spectrum. Clay, Zanna; de Waal, Frans B. M. // PLoS ONE;Jan2013, Vol. 8 Issue 1, Special section p1 

    How animals respond to conflict provides key insights into the evolution of socio-cognitive and emotional capacities. Evidence from apes has shown that, after social conflicts, bystanders approach victims of aggression to offer stress-alleviating contact behavior, a phenomenon known as...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics