Abstract # 19:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 2012 03:30 PM-03:45 PM: Session 4 (Camellia ) Oral Presentation


CURIOUS MONKEYS HAVE INCREASED GREY MATTER DENSITY IN THE PRECUNEUS

K. A. Phillips1,2, F. Subiaul3 and C. C. Sherwood3
1Trinity University, Department of Psychology , San Antonio, TX 78212, USA, 2Southwest National Primate Research Center, 3The George Washington University
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     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 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 grey matter density (p < 0.05) in the precuneus, a cortical region involved in highly integrated processes including memory and self-awareness. These results linking variation in precuneus grey matter volume to exploratory behavior suggest that monitoring states of self-awareness may play a role in asocial cognitive processes mediating individual curiosity.