Abstract # 78:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2009 08:00 PM-09:30 PM: Session 6 (Marina Room) Roundtable


LEARNING FROM MICHAEL: WHAT STUDIES OF BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR TEACH US ABOUT THE MIND OF A GORILLA.

J. Erwin1,2, A. L. Rose3, F. Patterson3 and P. L. Hof4
1Foundation for Comparative and Conservation Biology , 4139 Gem Bridge Road, Needmore, PA 17238, USA, 2VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, 3The Gorilla Foundation, 4Mount Sinai School of Medicine
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A western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) named Michael was one of two members of his species (the other is Koko) to learn to communicate with humans using signs. He was a remarkable individual who told vivid stories, and had a talent for painting. When he died, his brain was studied in great detail as part of the Great Ape Aging Project, including state-of-the-art tract tracing imagery and stereologic neuronal quantification. Michael's brain contained an unusual array of large spindle-shaped Von Economo neurons (VENs), cells that are found among primates only in the humans and great apes, and which are apparently critical to some higher-order cognitive processes.