Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Surprisingly Complex Behaviors Appear To Be 'Hard-wired' In The Primate Brain

Date:
March 21, 2005
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Studies are finding that a number of surprisingly complex behaviors appear to be built into the brains of primates. These are “biologically significant” behaviors that appear likely to improve the primate’s ability to survive and reproduce. They include aggressive facial patterns, defensive forelimb movements, hand-to-mouth and reaching-and-grasping movements.

An illustration of the human brain showing the location of the posterior parietal cortex, the primary motor complex (M1), and the pre-motor areas (SMA, PMd and PMv). (Illustration by Barbara Martin / courtesy of Vanderbilt University)

When you grab a piece of food and put it in your mouth; when you smile in response to the smile of a passerby or squint and grimace in anger, the complex pattern of movements that you make may be hardwired into your brain.

Scientists have long known that many of the behaviors of lower organisms are innate. In the insect world, for example, instinctive behaviors predominate. Birds have a larger repertoire of fixed behaviors than dogs.

In primates, voluntary or learned behavior predominates. So neuroscientists have assumed that in primate brains the hard-wiring is limited to simple movements and complex behaviors are all learned.

Now, however, studies are finding that a number of surprisingly complex behaviors appear to be built into the brains of primates as well. These are “biologically significant” behaviors that appear likely to improve the primate’s ability to survive and reproduce. They include aggressive facial patterns, defensive forelimb movements, hand-to-mouth and reaching-and-grasping movements.

Vanderbilt researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition published the week of March 14, report that they can elicit these complex behaviorsby stimulating specific areas in the brain of a small nocturnal primate called the Galago or bush baby (Otolemur garnetti). Their results provide significant new support for the proposition that all primate brains, including our own, contain such a repertoire of innate complex behaviors.

“We have now seen this feature in the brain of an Old World monkey and New World prosimian. The fact that it appears in the brains of two such divergent primates suggests that this form of organization evolved very early in the development of primates. That, in turn, suggests that it is characteristic of all primate brains, including the human brain,” says Jon Kaas, the head of the research group, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University and investigator at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development.

"These results explain why certain behaviors, such as defensive and aggressive movements, smiling and grasping food are so similar around the world. It because the instructions for these movements are built-in and not learned," he adds.

In hundreds of primate experiments performed over the last 20 years, neuroscientists had identified an area called the primarily motor cortex which, when stimulated, triggers simple muscle movements. The fact that they were able to produce only motions by single muscles and other simple movements reinforced the idea that only simple movements were hard-wired into primate brain circuitry.

Then, last year Michael Graziano at Princeton University pointed out that previous stimulation experiments in the motor cortex – the area that controls bodily motions – had been done using very short electrical pulses that last less than a half second. He further suggested that longer pulses might stimulate more complicated motions. Working with alert macaques, he and his colleagues found that applying such long-duration signals did in fact elicit several of thesecomplex behaviors, much as they had predicted.

Kaas and his colleagues, Research Assistant Professor Iwona Stepniewska and doctoral student Pei-Chun Fang, decided to follow the Princeton researchers’ lead and try long-duration stimuli in the simpler brain of the Galago. When they did, they also found that this type of stimuli triggered complex behaviors. In fact, they were able to stimulate a larger number of complex movements than those that the Princeton group had reported, including aggressive facial patterns, defensive forelimb movements, hand-to-mouth and reaching-and-grasping movements.

The Princeton researchers stimulated areas in the motor cortex. The Vanderbilt researchers found that they could also elicit these behaviors by stimulating an adjacent area of the brain called the posterior parietal cortex. It is heavily interconnected with the motor cortex and had previously been associated with transforming data from the eyes and other senses into a spatial map of the surrounding environment. The new findings reveal that this brain area also plays an important role in complex, innate behaviors.

The research was funded with a grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Surprisingly Complex Behaviors Appear To Be 'Hard-wired' In The Primate Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050321083933.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2005, March 21). Surprisingly Complex Behaviors Appear To Be 'Hard-wired' In The Primate Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050321083933.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Surprisingly Complex Behaviors Appear To Be 'Hard-wired' In The Primate Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050321083933.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins