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 hard-wired 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 the hard-wiring in primate brains 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, and hand-to-mouth and reaching-and-grasping movements.
David F. Salisbury | EurekAlert!
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