A neuroanatomical predictor of mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees


EE Hecht, LM Mahovetz, TM Preuss, and WD Hopkins. 2017. “A neuroanatomical predictor of mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees.” Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 12, 1, Pp. 37-48.


The ability to recognize one's own reflection is shared by humans and only a few other species, including chimpanzees. However, this ability is highly variable across individual chimpanzees. In humans, self-recognition involves a distributed, right-lateralized network including frontal and parietal regions involved in the production and perception of action. The superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) is a system of white matter tracts linking these frontal and parietal regions. The current study measured mirror self-recognition (MSR) and SLF anatomy in 60 chimpanzees using diffusion tensor imaging. Successful self-recognition was associated with greater rightward asymmetry in the white matter of SLFII and SLFIII, and in SLFIII's gray matter terminations in Broca's area. We observed a visible progression of SLFIII's prefrontal extension in apes that show negative, ambiguous, and compelling evidence of MSR. Notably, SLFIII's terminations in Broca's area are not right-lateralized or particularly pronounced at the population level in chimpanzees, as they are in humans. Thus, chimpanzees with more human-like behavior show more human-like SLFIII connectivity. These results suggest that self-recognition may have co-emerged with adaptations to frontoparietal circuitry.