Collegium Helveticum
Fellow Project 2022–2023

Time to Socialize
Does the Timing of Brain Development Predict Prosocial and Play Behavior?

Paola Cerrito’s fellowship project at the Collegium took a comparative approach to investigate the presence of shared neurobiological traits that could help explain the high levels of sociality observed in some primates—including humans.

Based on previous work on humans and naked mole rats, Paola hypothesized that the timing of brain development is critical for the development of prosocial traits. Neural connectivity occurs while the infant is cared for by—and establishes effective communication with—a plurality of individuals including caregivers and play partners. Paola aimed to test her hypothesis by characterizing brain development in marmosets, a prosocial South American monkey species. She examined whether delayed and prolonged brain formation coupled with extensive shared infant care and social play in marmosets allowed the development of marked social behaviors.