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Front Psychol. 2014 Jan 29;5:7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00007. eCollection 2014.

Poor receptive joint attention skills are associated with atypical gray matter asymmetry in the posterior superior temporal gyrus of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

Author information

1
Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University Atlanta, GA, USA ; Language Research Center, Georgia State University Atlanta, GA, USA ; Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience, Yerkes National Primate Research Center Atlanta, GA, USA.
2
Department of Psychology, Agnes Scott College Decatur, GA, USA.
3
Department of Veterinary Sciences, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Bastrop, TX, USA.
4
Language Research Center, Georgia State University Atlanta, GA, USA ; Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience, Yerkes National Primate Research Center Atlanta, GA, USA.
5
Department of Veterinary Sciences, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Bastrop, TX, USA ; Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Copenhagen Copenhagen, Denmark.

Abstract

Clinical and experimental data have implicated the posterior superior temporal gyrus as an important cortical region in the processing of socially relevant stimuli such as gaze following, eye direction, and head orientation. Gaze following and responding to different socio-communicative signals is an important and highly adaptive skill in primates, including humans. Here, we examined whether individual differences in responding to socio-communicative cues was associated with variation in either gray matter (GM) volume and asymmetry in a sample of chimpanzees. Magnetic resonance image scans and behavioral data on receptive joint attention (RJA) was obtained from a sample of 191 chimpanzees. We found that chimpanzees that performed poorly on the RJA task had less GM in the right compared to left hemisphere in the posterior but not anterior superior temporal gyrus. We further found that middle-aged and elderly chimpanzee performed more poorly on the RJA task and had significantly less GM than young-adult and sub-adult chimpanzees. The results are consistent with previous studies implicating the posterior temporal gyrus in the processing of socially relevant information.

KEYWORDS:

brain asymmetry in cognition; brain development; chimpanzees; joint attention; superior temporal gyrus

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