Curious Monkeys have Increased Gray Matter Density in the Precuneus
Curiosity is a cornerstone of cognition that has the potential to lead to innovations and increase the behavioral repertoire of individuals. A defining characteristic of curiosity is inquisitiveness directed toward novel objects. Species differences in innovative behavior and inquisitiveness have been linked to social complexity and neocortical size . . In this study, we observed behavioral actions among nine socially reared and socially housed capuchin monkeys in response to an unfamiliar object, a paradigm widely employed as a means to assess curiosity. . K-means hierarchical clustering analysis of the behavioral responses revealed three monkeys engaged in significantly more exploratory behavior of the novel object than other monkeys. Using voxel-based-morphometry analysis of MRIs obtained from these same subjects, we demonstrated that the more curious monkeys had significantly greater gray matter density in the precuneus, a cortical region involved in highly integrated processes including memory and self-awareness. These results linking variation in precuneus gray matter volume to exploratory behavior suggest that monitoring states of self-awareness may play a role in cognitive processes mediating individual curiosity.
Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
Phillips, K. A., Subiaul, F., & Sherwood, C. C. (2012). Curious monkeys have increased gray matter density in the precuneus. Neuroscience Letters, 518(2), 172-175. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.05.004