This project will provide the infrastructure, expertise, and tools for a National Chimpanzee Brain Resource for neuroscience research. Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, sharing more than 98% DNA similarity. As a result, chimpanzees possess a number of behavioral and cognitive abilities that distinguish them from other nonhuman species often used in behavioral and biomedical research such as mice, rats, and monkeys. Such abilities include basic symbolic communication, self-recognition, third party reconciliation and consolation, tool use, imitation learning, and empathy. Thus, chimpanzees are a unique species for understanding recently evolved cognitive phenotypes, some of which are abnormally manifest in neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans. However, the chimpanzee resources managed by the NIH have been underutilized, particularly in the context of neuroscience. There is a broad community of researchers who would benefit from a National Chimpanzee Brain Resource. As part of this project we will create an infrastructure that will: (1) manage communication with National Primate Research Centers and the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary (Chimp Haven) to coordinate brain collection and shipping; (2) acquire high resolution structural MRI and diffusion tensor imaging of postmortem fixed brains; (3) provide open access to and a catalog of T1-weighted structural MRI and resting state fMRI scans of a sample of chimpanzee brains; (4) develop an online, minable database so that scientists can query the collection of MRIs and tissue samples and submit requests. We will also develop tools that will include: (1) MRI-based template of the chimpanzee brain with probabilistic maps of cortical regions determined by cytoarchitectonic methods; (2) an online searchable database of grey and white matter volumes, as well as cortical thickness, of key brains regions of interest, including region-of-interest maps; (3) a database of chimpanzee brain connectivity that will be developed from diffusion tensor images; (4) a detailed chimpanzee brain atlas created from histological sections; (5) coordination with the Allen Institute for Brain Science to begin creating a chimpanzee gene-expression map. Furthermore, we will obtain a behavioral database from chimpanzees to enable the investigation of brain anatomy-behavior-genomic associations. Data on motor skill (tool use, grasping skill), laterality, social and physical cognition (gaze following, initiating and comprehension of social communicative skills, spatial memory, object permanence) will continue to be obtained and data on social behavior (i.e., grooming, social play) and temperament will also be collected for each individual.
A variety of neurological, neurodegenerative and psychological disorders are linked to variability in cortical organization at a macro- and microstructural level of analysis. For many disorders, the extent to which they are manifest as a consequence of uniquely human specializations or have a shared origin with other primates remains a central topic in neuroscience. The proposed creation of a National Chimpanzee Brain Resource will provide opportunities for scientists from a number of disciplines to utilize chimpanzee brain materials and associated meta-data for the purposes of identifying important molecular, genomic, and cellular similarities and differences between humans and chimpanzees that underlie a variety of diseases.
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