Unselfish Monkeys: Brain Cell Reaction Found In Study

Unselfish monkeys are the unusual subject of a new published study by scientists conducting brain cell research. The surprising results showed that when given a series of particular choices, the monkeys involved willingly chose to perform gestures of kindness.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Their findings were published on December 23 in the Nature Neuroscience journal.

News Track India reports that researchers attached sensitive electrodes to a group of rhesus monkeys to measure brain activity. Using a reward system, the team provided the animals with different possible scenario outcomes that revolved around kindness and generosity.

When given the option of giving themselves a juice reward, the monkeys naturally chose this outcome first. What may be surprising is their reaction to a second scenario. When given the choice of passing the reward to a fellow test subject or neither monkey receiving a reward, the kinder gesture was chosen.

The study also revealed the monkeys’ unselfishness was frequently displayed toward test mates it was familiar with. In addition, monkeys with a higher social status were seen to receive the award more often than those with a lower status.

An article by Live Science writes that researchers studied the individual neurons firing from areas of the brain thought to engage altruism. The orbitofrontal cortex in the brain fired when the monkeys rewarded themselves. When giving the reward to fellow animals the scientists found reaction in an area of the brain known as the anterior cingulate gyrus.

This particular part of the brain has been known to react similarly in humans as well. The current study may show a correlation between this brain region and primitive forms of empathy.

What do you think of the study finding brain cell reactions in the unselfish monkeys?