Expansion of the neocerebellum in Hominoidea

J Hum Evol. 2003 Apr;44(4):401-29. doi: 10.1016/s0047-2484(03)00028-9.


Technological and conceptual breakthroughs have led to more serious consideration of the cerebellum as an essential element in cognition. Recent studies show the lateral cerebellum, seat of the neocerebellum, to be most active in cognitive tasks. An examination of the relative volumes of the cerebellar hemispheres in anthropoids would reveal whether some groups show greater neocerebellar development through hemispheric expansion beyond expected allometry, implying a greater contribution of the lateral hemispheres to cognition. This study expands the existing data on primate brain and brain part volumes by incorporating data from both magnetic resonance scans and histological sections for a total sample size of 97 specimens, including 42 apes, 14 humans and 41 monkeys. The resulting volumes of whole brain, cerebellum, vermis, and hemisphere enable a reliable linear regression contrast between hominoids and monkeys, and demonstrate a striking increase in the lateral cerebellum in hominoids. The uniformity of the grade shift suggests that this increase took place in the common ancestor to the hominoids. The importance of the neocerebellum in visual-spatial skills, planning of complex movements, procedural learning, attention switching, and sensory discrimination in manipulation would facilitate the adaptation of these early hominoids to frugivory and suspensory feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy, Comparative
  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cebidae / anatomy & histology
  • Cercopithecidae / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Hylobates / anatomy & histology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Regression Analysis