Continuity, divergence, and the evolution of brain language pathways

Front Evol Neurosci. 2012 Jan 3;3:11. doi: 10.3389/fnevo.2011.00011. eCollection 2011.


Recently, the assumption of evolutionary continuity between humans and non-human primates has been used to bolster the hypothesis that human language is mediated especially by the ventral extreme capsule pathway that mediates auditory object recognition in macaques. Here, we argue for the importance of evolutionary divergence in understanding brain language evolution. We present new comparative data reinforcing our previous conclusion that the dorsal arcuate fasciculus pathway was more significantly modified than the ventral extreme capsule pathway in human evolution. Twenty-six adult human and twenty-six adult chimpanzees were imaged with diffusion-weighted MRI and probabilistic tractography was used to track and compare the dorsal and ventral language pathways. Based on these and other data, we argue that the arcuate fasciculus is likely to be the pathway most essential for higher-order aspects of human language such as syntax and lexical-semantics.

Keywords: arcuate fasciculus; brain; chimpanzee; evolution; extreme capsule; language.