Age-related changes in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) cognition: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses

William D. Hopkins, Mary C. Mareno, Sarah J. Neal Webb, Steven J. Schapiro, Mary A. Raghanti, Chet C. Sherwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chimpanzees are the species most closely related to humans, yet age-related changes in brain and cognition remain poorly understood. The lack of studies on age-related changes in cognition in chimpanzees is particularly unfortunate in light of the recent evidence demonstrating that this species naturally develops Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology. Here, we tested 213 young, middle-aged, and elderly captive chimpanzees on the primate cognitive test battery (PCTB), a set of 13 tasks that assess physical and social cognition in nonhuman primates. A subset of these chimpanzees (n = 146) was tested a second time on a portion of the PCTB tasks as a means of evaluating longitudinal changes in cognition. Cross-sectional analyses revealed a significant quadratic association between age and cognition with younger and older chimpanzees performing more poorly than middle-aged individuals. Longitudinal analyses showed that the oldest chimpanzees at the time of the first test showed the greatest decline in cognition, although the effect was mild. The collective data show that chimpanzees, like other nonhuman primates, show age-related decline in cognition. Further investigations into whether the observed cognitive decline is associated with AD pathologies in chimpanzees would be invaluable in understanding the comparative biology of aging and neuropathology in primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23214
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Alzheimer's pathology
  • age-related decline
  • aging
  • chimpanzee
  • cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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