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Published December 2020 | Supplemental Material + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

The connections of the insular VEN area in great apes: A histologically-guided ex vivo diffusion tractography study


We mapped the connections of the insular von Economo neuron (VEN) area in ex vivo brains of a bonobo, an orangutan and two gorillas with high angular resolution diffusion MRI imaging acquired in 36 h imaging sessions for each brain. The apes died of natural causes without neurological disorders. The localization of the insular VEN area was based on cresyl violet-stained histological sections from each brain that were coregistered with structural and diffusion images from the same individuals. Diffusion MRI tractography showed that the insular VEN area is connected with olfactory, gustatory, visual and other sensory systems, as well as systems for the mediation of appetite, reward, aversion and motivation. The insular VEN area in apes is most strongly connected with frontopolar cortex, which could support their capacity to choose voluntarily among alternative courses of action particularly in exploring for food resources. The frontopolar cortex may also support their capacity to take note of potential resources for harvesting in the future (prospective memory). All of these faculties may support insight and volitional choice when contemplating courses of action as opposed to rule-based decision-making.

Additional Information

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Received 31 January 2020, Revised 20 October 2020, Accepted 31 October 2020, Available online 4 November 2020. We thank Michael Tyszka and Jason Kaufman for their help in acquiring the structural and diffusion MRI data used in this study. We thank Virginie Goubert for the histological processing of the brain tissue. We thank Laura Korobkova for her skillful acquisition and assembly of the photomontage in Figs. 1 and 5. Several of the ape brains involved in this study are on loan to the "Great Ape Aging Project" from zoological gardens that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and that participate in the Ape Taxon Advisory Group (Ape-TAG). We especially appreciate the contribution of zoo veterinarians and staff in collecting and providing specimens. Some comparative specimens were collected under the "Comparative Neurobiology of Aging Resource," NIH/NIA grant AG014308, J. Erwin, PI. This research was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant number P41 EB015922.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - 2020-PIN-VENs-Proof.pdf

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc10.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc11.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc12.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc13.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc2.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc3.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc4.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc5.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc6.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc7.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc8.mp4

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S0301008220301969-mmc9.mp4


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August 22, 2023
December 22, 2023