Research reveals male and female capuchin monkeys show visible differences in brain structures – Georgia State University News


ATLANTA — Male and female capuchin monkeys don’t just behave differently — their brains are also different. Capuchin monkeys have sex differences in their brains, according to a new study published by a team of researchers at Georgia State University, Harvard University and Trinity University.

Using a non-invasive imaging technique, the researchers found that male capuchin monkeys exhibited an expansion of gray matter from an area of ​​the brain called the hypothalamus, which is responsible for maintaining essential bodily functions such as secretion of hormones and temperature regulation. Female capuchin monkeys showed an expansion of gray matter from different areas of the brain than males. Analyzes of white matter connectivity in the brain revealed that the expansion in women was mostly found in areas associated with higher-order functions such as attention, perception, and social behavior.

Male and female capuchins inhabit different social niches: females rely on high-quality resources and strong relationships with maternal kinship to achieve reproductive success, meaning they compete with other females for these resources and for the attention of males. On the other hand, males are dependent on social status and must compete with other males from outside groups for reproductive success. One possible explanation for the sex differences that emerge in the brains of capuchins is that selection pressures act differently on the brains of men and women due to their distinct social niches.

“Knowing these differences will be instructive for future behavioral and cognitive studies with these monkeys, especially in social settings,” said Olivia Reilly, PhD student. candidate in the Georgia State Department of Psychology and one of the lead authors of the study.

Studying the sex differences in the brains of Capuchins can help scientists learn more about how sex differences evolved and when these differences may have evolved. Most of what we know about the evolution of sex differences in the brain comes from studies in rodents, which show clear differences, mainly in ancestral brain areas that control instinctive behaviors like reproduction. On the other end of the spectrum are humans, who have incredibly complex brains that show less distinct sexual differences. Differences between the human sexes emerge both in ancestral brain areas and also in higher order areas involved in social behavior and cognition. Capuchin monkeys help fill this gap by showing what gender differences exist in a species that is more closely related to humans than rodents.

“Capuchins have not been the subject of much research in neuroscience to date. It is important for us to study many different species, in order to understand how brains evolve in the animal kingdom, ”said Erin Hecht, assistant professor at Harvard University and lead author of this study.

“Capuchin monkeys are a great model for us to study sex differences in the brain, because during evolution, capuchins lie between humans and rodents,” Reilly said. “Sex differences in rodent brains often appear in areas that control innate behaviors, while human sex differences in the brain are much more complex and tend to occur in areas involved in higher order functions. . “

The article entitled “Sexual differences in the brains of capuchin monkeys (Sapajus [Cebus] apella) “was recently published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology.

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