Variability and asymmetry of the sulcal contours defining Broca's area homologue in the chimpanzee brain

J Comp Neurol. 2012 Apr 15;520(6):1165-80. doi: 10.1002/cne.22747.


There has been recent motivation to search for neuroanatomical asymmetries in nonhuman primates in order to provide comparative information on how the human brain is structurally organized to support specific cognitive capabilities, such as language functions. We took the opportunity to study Broca's area homologue in a novel sample of 80 preserved postmortem chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) cerebral hemispheres. Consistent with the only prior study documenting the morphology of Broca's area homologue in the chimpanzee (Sherwood et al. [2003] Anat Rec 271:276–285), we report great interindividual variation in the structure and connections of the sulci investigated, most notably a left-sided bias in the bifurcation of the inferior precentral sulcus, an anatomical feature that occurs much more frequently in chimpanzees relative to humans. Consistent with our recent neuroimaging report (Keller et al. [2009b] J Neurosci 29:14607–14616), no population-based interhemispheric asymmetries of sulcal length existed that could be considered markers of the size of Broca's area homologue. With strict anatomical guidelines, we report that the diagonal sulcus was present in 25% left and 20% right chimpanzee hemispheres studied, which is substantially less that the general prevalence in humans. Through the presentation of schematic drawings, photographs, morphological recordings and sulcal length metrics, our data illustrate the interindividual variability of Broca's area homologue in the chimpanzee and support the notion of no macroscopic asymmetry of this important homologous language brain region in one of the closest evolutionary ancestor to modern humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / anatomy & histology*
  • Pan troglodytes / physiology