Comparative primate neurobiology and the evolution of brain language systems

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2014 Oct;28:10-4. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2014.04.002. Epub 2014 May 14.


Human brain specializations supporting language can be identified by comparing human with non-human primate brains. Comparisons with chimpanzees are critical in this endeavor. Human brains are much larger than non-human primate brains, but human language capabilities cannot be entirely explained by brain size. Human brain specializations that potentially support our capacity for language include firstly, wider cortical minicolumns in both Broca's and Wernicke's areas compared with great apes; secondly, leftward asymmetries in Broca's area volume and Wernicke's area minicolumn width that are not found in great apes; and thirdly, arcuate fasciculus projections beyond Wernicke's area to a region of expanded association cortex in the middle and inferior temporal cortex involved in processing word meaning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Neurobiology*