Monday, April 14, 2008

Neuroscience: Language feature unique to human brain?

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Center used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to probe language areas of the human brain, vs. that of non-human primates. They found that the pathway (arcuate fasiculus) connecting brain regions involved in human language such as Broca's area and Wernicke's area is much larger and more widely connected than in rhesus macaques or chimpanzees.

Yerkes researcher James Rilling notes,
"We know from previous functional imaging studies that the middle temporal lobe is involved with analyzing the meanings of words. In humans, it seems the brain not only evolved larger language regions but also a network of fibers to connect those regions, which supports humans' superior language capabilities."
Findings like this may modify overly optimistic projections for communicating on an equal footing with apes - though don't count on it. Ideas like that die hard in times like these.

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