Cultural recycling of cortical maps

Neuron. 2007 Oct 25;56(2):384-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.10.004.


Part of human cortex is specialized for cultural domains such as reading and arithmetic, whose invention is too recent to have influenced the evolution of our species. Representations of letter strings and of numbers occupy reproducible locations within large-scale macromaps, respectively in the left occipito-temporal and bilateral intraparietal cortex. Furthermore, recent fMRI studies reveal a systematic architecture within these areas. To explain this paradoxical cerebral invariance of cultural maps, we propose a neuronal recycling hypothesis, according to which cultural inventions invade evolutionarily older brain circuits and inherit many of their structural constraints.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Culture
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reading