Chimpanzee Brain Facts

Images of brains from
Images of brains from

Chimpanzees have brains that are one-third the size of human brains. Most of this difference reflects the evolutionary expansion of the neocortex in humans, particularly the association cortex, a group of regions that supports such sophisticated cognitive functions as language, self-awareness, and problem solving.

Human and chimpanzees, nonetheless, share many cognitive, communicative, and emotional processes in common, based on similarities in their neurobiological structure and function. Chimpanzees have a prolonged developmental period between birth and adulthood during which socialization occurs and neural structure can be strongly influenced by the environment and learning. Furthermore, chimpanzees, like humans, also have a larger and more gyrified brain than other primates species. There are several other features of the chimpanzee brain that are more similar to humans than to other primates, including: 1) the ability to morphologically define both Broca’s and Wernicke’s area using similar landmarks to the human brain; 2) the dense distribution of von Economo neurons in the anterior cingulate and frontoinsular cortex; 3) a more complex level of connectivity and function within the arcuate fascicularis and mirror neuron systems.


Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Hominidae
Genus and Species: Pan troglodytes
Subspecies: P. t. schweinfurthii, P. t. troglodytes, P. t. ellioti, P. t. verus

Conservation Status: Endangered (IUCN Red List)
Life span: 40 to 45 years (wild), more than 60 (captive)
Total population: 172,700 to 299,700 (wild), 1,450 (captive)
Habitat range in the wild: Equatorial Africa, from southern Senegal across the forested belt north of the Congo River to western Uganda and western Tanzania
Gestation: 8 months (240 days)
Body Height: 816 mm (M & F)
Body Weight: 40 to 60 kg (M), 32 to 47 kg (F)


Download STL files of chimpanzee and human brains to print 3D models
(click on the images of the brains below to download)


The phylogenetic relationship of chimpanzees to other primates
(Ma = millions of years ago)

Average weight of adult chimpanzee brain: 384 g (0.85 lb)
Average weight of adult human brain: 1,352 g (2.98 lb)

Comparison of human and chimpanzee brain size growth

  Average neonatal brain size (g) Average adult brain size (g) % adult brain size at birth Age 90% of adult brain size attained Age at sexual maturity (years) Years from adult brain size to maturity (years) % subadult period left after reaching adult brain size
Human 364 1,352 27% 5 19.5 14.5 74%
Chimpanzee 137 384 36% 4 13.3 9.3 70%

Source: Robson SL, Wood B (2008) Hominin life history: reconstruction and evolution.  J Anat. 212: 394-425.

National Chimpanzee Brain Resoure is supported by NIH - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


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