Open Access

Neural representation of face familiarity in an awake chimpanzee

Hirokata Fukushima​, Satoshi Hirata, Goh Matsuda, Ari Ueno, Kohki Fuwa, Keiko Sugama, Kiyo Kusunoki, Kazuo Hiraki, Masaki Tomonaga, Toshikazu Hasegawa
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.223
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Evaluating the familiarity of faces is critical for social animals as it is the basis of individual recognition. In the present study, we examined how face familiarity is reflected in neural activities in our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. Skin-surface event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were measured while a fully awake chimpanzee observed photographs of familiar and unfamiliar chimpanzee faces (Experiment 1) and human faces (Experiment 2). The ERPs evoked by chimpanzee faces differentiated unfamiliar individuals from familiar ones around midline areas centered on vertex sites at approximately 200 ms after the stimulus onset. In addition, the ERP response to the image of the subject’s own face did not significantly diverge from those evoked by familiar chimpanzees, suggesting that the subject’s brain at a minimum remembered the image of her own face. The ERPs evoked by human faces were not influenced by the familiarity of target individuals. These results indicate that chimpanzee neural representations are more sensitive to the familiarity of conspecific than allospecific faces.


Chimpanzee, Face recognition, Familiarity, Self recognition, Species effect, Memory, Comparative neuroscience, Social cognition, Event-related potentials,

Article Information
Fukushima​ H, Hirata S, Matsuda G, Ueno A, Fuwa K, Sugama K, Kusunoki K, Hiraki K, Tomonaga M, Hasegawa T(2013)Neural representation of face familiarity in an awake chimpanzee PeerJ, e223.
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