Large brains and cognition

Where do elephants fit in?

Benjamin Hart, Lynette A Hart, Noa Pinter-Wollman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

83 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Among terrestrial mammals, elephants share the unique status, along with humans and great apes, of having large brains, being long-lived and having offspring that require long periods of dependency. Elephants have the largest brains of all terrestrial mammals, including the greatest volume of cerebral cortex. In contrast to what one might expect from such a large-brained species, the performance of elephants in cognitive feats, such as tool use, visual discrimination learning and tests of "insight" behavior, is unimpressive in comparison to the performance by chimpanzees and, of course, humans. Where elephants do seem to excel is in long-term, extensive spatial-temporal and social memory. In addition, elephants appear to be somewhat unique among non-human species in their reactions to disabled and deceased conspecifics, exhibiting behaviors that are mindful of "theory-of-mind" phenomena. Information gleaned from studies on the neural cytoarchitecture of large brains reveals that the neurons of the cerebral cortex of elephants are much less densely populated than in large-brained primates. The interactions between cortical neurons would appear to be more global and less compartmentalized into local areas, and cortical information processing slower, than in great apes and humans. Although focused neural cytoarchitecture studies on the elephant are needed, this comparative perspective on the cortical neural cytoarchitecture appears to relate to differences in behavior between elephants and their primate counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Fingerprint

Cognition
Brain
Hominidae
Cerebral Cortex
Primates
Mammals
Discrimination Learning
Neurons
Theory of Mind
Pan troglodytes
Automatic Data Processing

Keywords

  • Cognitive behavior
  • Elephants
  • Higher order brain functions
  • Large brains
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

Large brains and cognition : Where do elephants fit in? / Hart, Benjamin; Hart, Lynette A; Pinter-Wollman, Noa.

In: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2008, p. 86-98.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{68c048b08fa84f05b45614fb643a5b46,
title = "Large brains and cognition: Where do elephants fit in?",
abstract = "Among terrestrial mammals, elephants share the unique status, along with humans and great apes, of having large brains, being long-lived and having offspring that require long periods of dependency. Elephants have the largest brains of all terrestrial mammals, including the greatest volume of cerebral cortex. In contrast to what one might expect from such a large-brained species, the performance of elephants in cognitive feats, such as tool use, visual discrimination learning and tests of {"}insight{"} behavior, is unimpressive in comparison to the performance by chimpanzees and, of course, humans. Where elephants do seem to excel is in long-term, extensive spatial-temporal and social memory. In addition, elephants appear to be somewhat unique among non-human species in their reactions to disabled and deceased conspecifics, exhibiting behaviors that are mindful of {"}theory-of-mind{"} phenomena. Information gleaned from studies on the neural cytoarchitecture of large brains reveals that the neurons of the cerebral cortex of elephants are much less densely populated than in large-brained primates. The interactions between cortical neurons would appear to be more global and less compartmentalized into local areas, and cortical information processing slower, than in great apes and humans. Although focused neural cytoarchitecture studies on the elephant are needed, this comparative perspective on the cortical neural cytoarchitecture appears to relate to differences in behavior between elephants and their primate counterparts.",
keywords = "Cognitive behavior, Elephants, Higher order brain functions, Large brains, Memory",
author = "Benjamin Hart and Hart, {Lynette A} and Noa Pinter-Wollman",
year = "2008",
doi = "10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.05.012",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "32",
pages = "86--98",
journal = "Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews",
issn = "0149-7634",
publisher = "Elsevier Limited",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Large brains and cognition

T2 - Where do elephants fit in?

AU - Hart, Benjamin

AU - Hart, Lynette A

AU - Pinter-Wollman, Noa

PY - 2008

Y1 - 2008

N2 - Among terrestrial mammals, elephants share the unique status, along with humans and great apes, of having large brains, being long-lived and having offspring that require long periods of dependency. Elephants have the largest brains of all terrestrial mammals, including the greatest volume of cerebral cortex. In contrast to what one might expect from such a large-brained species, the performance of elephants in cognitive feats, such as tool use, visual discrimination learning and tests of "insight" behavior, is unimpressive in comparison to the performance by chimpanzees and, of course, humans. Where elephants do seem to excel is in long-term, extensive spatial-temporal and social memory. In addition, elephants appear to be somewhat unique among non-human species in their reactions to disabled and deceased conspecifics, exhibiting behaviors that are mindful of "theory-of-mind" phenomena. Information gleaned from studies on the neural cytoarchitecture of large brains reveals that the neurons of the cerebral cortex of elephants are much less densely populated than in large-brained primates. The interactions between cortical neurons would appear to be more global and less compartmentalized into local areas, and cortical information processing slower, than in great apes and humans. Although focused neural cytoarchitecture studies on the elephant are needed, this comparative perspective on the cortical neural cytoarchitecture appears to relate to differences in behavior between elephants and their primate counterparts.

AB - Among terrestrial mammals, elephants share the unique status, along with humans and great apes, of having large brains, being long-lived and having offspring that require long periods of dependency. Elephants have the largest brains of all terrestrial mammals, including the greatest volume of cerebral cortex. In contrast to what one might expect from such a large-brained species, the performance of elephants in cognitive feats, such as tool use, visual discrimination learning and tests of "insight" behavior, is unimpressive in comparison to the performance by chimpanzees and, of course, humans. Where elephants do seem to excel is in long-term, extensive spatial-temporal and social memory. In addition, elephants appear to be somewhat unique among non-human species in their reactions to disabled and deceased conspecifics, exhibiting behaviors that are mindful of "theory-of-mind" phenomena. Information gleaned from studies on the neural cytoarchitecture of large brains reveals that the neurons of the cerebral cortex of elephants are much less densely populated than in large-brained primates. The interactions between cortical neurons would appear to be more global and less compartmentalized into local areas, and cortical information processing slower, than in great apes and humans. Although focused neural cytoarchitecture studies on the elephant are needed, this comparative perspective on the cortical neural cytoarchitecture appears to relate to differences in behavior between elephants and their primate counterparts.

KW - Cognitive behavior

KW - Elephants

KW - Higher order brain functions

KW - Large brains

KW - Memory

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=36448969450&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=36448969450&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.05.012

DO - 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.05.012

M3 - Article

VL - 32

SP - 86

EP - 98

JO - Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

JF - Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

SN - 0149-7634

IS - 1

ER -