Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Connecting with Chimpanzees

First white matter map of chimpanzees – comparison with human maps will reveal specialisations

19 February 2021

Connecting with Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees, along with bonobos, are our closest living relatives and share nearly 99% of our DNA. Despite this relatively small genetic difference, humans behave differently from apes. However, research on human and chimp brains is difficult, as many research techniques cause harm and are unethical. To discover more about what underpins these differences, researchers have used a new non-invasive scanning technology to build the first ever comprehensive atlas of brain connections in humans (bottom left), chimps (top) and macaque monkeys (bottom right). By comparing how different parts of the brain are wired together in these three species, scientists can start to pick out key regions that we share with chimps, as well as areas that might underpin distinctive human traits. This atlas has been made freely available to the scientific community to spark further research into the question of what makes a human a human and a chimp a chimp.

Written by Kat Arney

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