Neurons in the primate brain work differently as between monkeys and humans.

It is generally difficult to record single neuron activity in human brains. There is always the risk of brain damage. But occasionally specific treatment of patients with epilepsy affords the opportunity to make such recordings. Researchers were able to create an experiment to record such neuronal activity in both humans and monkeys. They focussed on two brain areas: the amygdala and the cingulate cortex. They tested for two properties of neuronal activity, robustness and efficiency. Robustness refers to the extent to which neurons fire in synchrony. Efficiency, on the other hand, refers to the number of different combinations of firing activity. It turns out that monkeys exhibit more robustness, whereas humans exhibit more efficiency. As one of the researchers points out, in the wild, “If I see a tiger, I want all of my amygdala neurons to shout, ‘Run away fast!’” Humans, however, have benefitted from being able to think about alternative responses to situations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they possess slightly different cognitive skills in order to achieve that.

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