Chimp brains don’t shrink

Study indicates brain withering may be uniquely human

By Laura Sanders

Unlike humans, chimpanzees’ brains don’t shrink as they get older. That means that, so far, people seem to be the only lucky species whose brains wither with age, researchers report online July 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Chimp aging seems to be on a different trajectory than humans’,” says aging and Alzheimer’s expert Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.

So far, the small number of great ape brains that have been studied show mild changes with age, Finch says, but nothing that approaches the damage seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding differences in aging between humans and other primates may help scientists figure out why human brains are susceptible to age-related dementias.

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