The importance of the comparative approach to studying the brain cannot be overstated. The comparative approach allows us to compare human brains to brains of non-humans.
One of the key findings in this area is that the difference between human brains and brains of other species are often quantitative rather than qualitative. Comparative studies do reveal differences, but they also reveal many similarities that can lead to a better understanding of evolution and brain development. The primary benefits of using the comparative approach are that simpler brains found in other species make it more likely that brain-behavior relationships will be revealed, and there are fewer ethical restrictions applied to the study of other species.
Researchers who work with our closest relatives, chimps, assume that the things learned about chimps’ brains and behavior could be applied to understanding human brains and behavior. Researchers can also make meaningful comparisons with more distantly related species: slugs, fruit flies, rats and cats. Brain-behavior comparisons across species provide information that is difficult to obtain from studying a single species.
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