The neural bases of complex tool use in humans

Trends Cogn Sci. 2004 Feb;8(2):71-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2003.12.002.


The behaviors involved in complex human tool use cut across boundaries traditionally drawn between social, cognitive, perceptual and motor processes. Longstanding neuropsychological evidence suggests a distinction between brain systems responsible for representing: (1) semantic knowledge about familiar tools and their uses, and (2) the acquired skills necessary for performing these actions. Contemporary findings in functional neuroimaging support and refine this distinction by revealing the distributed neural systems that support these processes and the conditions under which they interact. Together, these findings indicate that behaviors associated with complex tool use arise from functionally specialized networks involving temporal, parietal and frontal areas within the left cerebral hemisphere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Man-Machine Systems
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology