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Pet rabbit brains have shrunk due to domestication, says new research

New research has found that the brains of pet rabbits have shrunk due to domestication, and that they no longer fear humans as a result.

The University of Porto research saw scientists examine the brains of rabbits as they grew in two separate groups, wild and domestic. The scientists then scanned the brains and found that the wild rabbits had larger brains while the domestic rabbit’s brains shrunk in key areas and expanded in others.

Pet rabbits saw their amygdala, the part of the brain which senses fear had shrunk significantly while the medial prefrontal cortex which controls response to fear had enlarged.

The domesticated rabbits also severely lacked white matter which means they are less able to process information and make decisions.

Dr Miguel Carneiro, who co-led the research, said: “In a previous study we reported that genetic differences between wild and domestic rabbits are particularly common in the vicinity of genes expressed during brain development. In the present study we decided to use high-resolution MRI to explore if these genetic changes are associated with changes in brain morphology.”

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