In studying spotted hyenas, lions and, most recently, the raccoon family, Sharleen Sakai has found a correlation between the size of the animals’ frontal cortex and their social nature.
The highly social coatimundi, native to Central and South America, has a large frontal cortex -- the part of the brain that regulates social interaction -- compared to other members of the raccoon family.
In her latest study, Sakai examined the digitally recreated brains of three species in the Procyonid family – the raccoon, the coatimundi and the kinkajou – and found the coatimundi had the largest frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is thought to regulate social interaction, and the coatimundi is by far the most social of the three animals, often living in bands of 20 or more.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, is published in the research journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution.
“Most neuroscience research that looks at how brains evolve has focused primarily on primates, so nobody really knows what the frontal cortex in a carnivore does,” said Sakai, professor of psychology. “These findings suggest the frontal cortex is processing social information in carnivores perhaps similar to what we’ve seen in monkeys and humans.”
Sakai did the most recent study in her neuroscience lab with Bradley Arsznov, a former MSU doctoral student who’s now an assistant professor of psychology at Minnesota State University. Sakai is one of myriad MSU faculty members who help make the university’s brain research portfolio one of the most diverse in the nation.
Her latest study was based on the findings from 45 adult Procyonid skulls acquired from university museum collections (17 coatimundis, 14 raccoons and 14 kinkajous). The researchers used computed tomography, or CT scans, and sophisticated software to digitally “fill in” the areas where the brains would have been.
When they analyzed into the findings, they discovered the female coatimundi had the largest anterior cerebrum volume consisting mainly of the frontal cortex, which regulates social activity in primates. This makes sense, Sakai said, since the female coatimundi is highly social while the male coatimundi, once grown, typically lives on its own or with another male. Also known as the Brazilian aardvark, the coatimundi – or coati – is native to Central and South America.
Raccoons, the most solitary of the three animals, had the smallest frontal cortex. However, raccoons had the largest posterior cerebrum, which contains the sensory area related to forepaw sensation and dexterity – and the raccoon’s forepaws are extremely dexterous and highly sensitive.
The rainforest-dwelling kinkajou had the largest cerebellum and brain stem, areas that regulate motor coordination. This skill is crucial for animals like the kinkajou that live in trees.
Brain size variations in this small family of carnivores appear to be related to differences in behavior including social interaction, Sakai said.
Andy Henion | EurekAlert!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences