A striking feature of our species is our large and complex brain, enabling communication and social cognition that surpasses that of any other species. However, the uniquely human brain structures that support these functions have remained elusive for two reasons. First, the extent of these faculties in non-human apes remains hotly debated. Great ape communication and social cognition have been inherently difficult to observe and vary greatly among individuals. Second, it is difficult to access brains of non-human apes to provide a clear contrast to human brain structures. Here, we present a unique opportunity to resolve these issues. We collect and scan post mortem brains of wild and captive chimpanzees and bonobos to highlight differences to human brains as well as within species variation comparing brains from individuals with different life experience for whom life history, social and tool use experience are known. We are a team of collaborators across two Max Planck Institutes.
Team members MPI EVA:
Admin: Christina Kompo
Postdocs: Aisha Bründl, Kathrin Kopp, Simon Neubauer
PhD students: Tatiana Bortolato, Mathieu Malherbe, Ines Roho
Veterinary Staff: Ariane Düx, Tobias Graessle, Jenny Jaffe
Research Assistants: Joe Broomfield, Sonja Ebel, Mathilde Grampp, Peter Niehoff, Pieter Nyssen, Isabella O’Neal
Technical staff: Amelie Pettrich, Tina Knittel.
Collaborators from other Institutions:
Fabian Leendertz, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin
Markus Morawski, Paul Flechsig Institute of Brain Research, Leipzig.