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Cereb Cortex. 2018 May 1;28(5):1808-1815. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx096.

Left Brain Asymmetry of the Planum Temporale in a Nonhominid Primate: Redefining the Origin of Brain Specialization for Language.

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Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive, UMR7290, Université Aix-Marseille, CNRS, 13331 Marseille, France.
Station de Primatologie CNRS, UPS846, 13790 Rousset, France.
Institut des Neurosciences de la Timone, UMR7289, Université Aix-Marseille, CNRS, 13005 Marseille, France.
The Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.
Neuroscience Institute and the Language Research Center, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA.
IMéRA - Institut d'Etudes Avancées, Université Aix-Marseille, 13004 Marseille, France.
Brain & Language Research Institute, Université Aix-Marseille, CNRS, 13604 Aix-en-Provence, France.


The planum temporale (PT) is a critical region of the language functional network in the human brain showing a striking size asymmetry toward the left hemisphere. Historically considered as a structural landmark of the left-brain specialization for language, a similar anatomical bias has been described in great apes but never in monkeys-indicating that this brain landmark might be unique to Hominidae evolution. In the present in vivo magnetic resonance imaging study, we show clearly for the first time in a nonhominid primate species, an Old World monkey, a left size predominance of the PT among 96 olive baboons (Papio anubis), using manual delineation of this region in each individual hemisphere. This asymmetric distribution was quasi-identical to that found originally in humans. Such a finding questions the relationship between PT asymmetry and the emergence of language, indicating that the origin of this cerebral specialization could be much older than previously thought, dating back, not to the Hominidae, but rather to the Catarrhini evolution at the common ancestor of humans, great apes and Old World monkeys, 30-40 million years ago.


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