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Abstract

Consequences of rearing history in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been explored in relation to behavioral abnormalities and cognition; however, little is known about the effects of rearing conditions on anatomical brain development. Human studies have revealed that experiences of maltreatment and neglect during infancy and childhood can have detrimental effects on brain development and cognition. In this study, we evaluated the effects of early rearing experience on brain morphology in 92 captive chimpanzees (ages 11–43) who were either reared by their mothers (= 46) or in a nursery (= 46) with age-group peers. Magnetic resonance brain images were analyzed with a processing program (BrainVISA) that extracts cortical sulci. We obtained various measurements from 11 sulci located throughout the brain, as well as whole brain gyrification and white and grey matter volumes. We found that mother-reared chimpanzees have greater global white-to-grey matter volume, more cortical folding and thinner grey matter within the cortical folds than nursery-reared animals. The findings reported here are the first to demonstrate that differences in early rearing conditions have significant consequences on brain morphology in chimpanzees and suggests potential differences in the development of white matter expansion and myelination.