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Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Mar;19(3):142-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.12.008. Epub 2015 Jan 15.

Neurobiological roots of language in primate audition: common computational properties.

Author information

  • 1Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia; Department of Germanic Linguistics, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany.
  • 3Department of Neurology, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.
  • 4Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition, Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington DC, USA; Institute for Advanced Study, Technische Universität München, Garching, Germany.


Here, we present a new perspective on an old question: how does the neurobiology of human language relate to brain systems in nonhuman primates? We argue that higher-order language combinatorics, including sentence and discourse processing, can be situated in a unified, cross-species dorsal-ventral streams architecture for higher auditory processing, and that the functions of the dorsal and ventral streams in higher-order language processing can be grounded in their respective computational properties in primate audition. This view challenges an assumption, common in the cognitive sciences, that a nonhuman primate model forms an inherently inadequate basis for modeling higher-level language functions.


auditory objects; dual pathways; language; nonhuman primate model; sequence processing

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