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Brain Behav Evol. 2012;79(3):205-12. doi: 10.1159/000336115. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Sexual dimorphism and laterality in the evolution of the primate prefrontal cortex.

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Department of Anthropology, University College London, London, UK. j.smaers @


Social selective pressures are commonly considered as the main driving force of primate brain evolution. Primate social behaviour is, however, known to be sexually dimorphic, and no previous study has made a direct comparison between male and female brain structures across species. We quantify sex-specific evolutionary trends in the prefrontal cortex of anthropoid primates (including humans) to investigate how sexual selection has shaped brain evolution in primates. The prefrontal cortex is of particular importance to the investigation of sexual dimorphism in primate brain evolution because of its association to those cognitive capacities central to primate (and human) evolution: sociality and higher-order cognitive processing. Our results demonstrate sex-by-hemisphere differences in the evolution of the prefrontal cortex in humans and non-human anthropoid primates congruent with the principal selective pressures considered to underlie anthropoid behavioural evolution. Our findings further show how sexual selection can shape brain adaptation in primates and provide an evolutionary framework for interpreting sex and sex-by-hemisphere differences in cortical organization in humans and non-human primates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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