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Curr Biol. 2008 Mar 11;18(5):343-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.049. Epub 2008 Feb 28.

Communicative signaling activates 'Broca's' homolog in chimpanzees.

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Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Atlanta, Georgia 30329; Department of Natural Sciences, Clayton State University, Morrow, Georgia 30260, USA.


Broca's area, a cerebral cortical area located in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) of the human brain, has been identified as one of several critical regions associated with the motor planning and execution of language. Anatomically, Broca's area is most often larger in the left hemisphere, and functional imaging studies in humans indicate significant left-lateralized patterns of activation during language-related tasks. If, and to what extent, nonhuman primates, particularly chimpanzees, possess a homologous region that is involved in the production of their own communicative signals remains unknown. Here, we show that portions of the IFG as well as other cortical and subcortical regions in chimpanzees are active during the production of communicative signals. These findings are the first to provide direct evidence of the neuroanatomical structures associated with the production of communicative behaviors in chimpanzees. Significant activation in the left IFG in conjunction with other cortical and subcortical brain areas during the production of communicative signals in chimpanzees suggests that the neurological substrates underlying language production in the human brain may have been present in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

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