On the neurocognitive origins of human tool use : A critical review of neuroimaging data

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 May:64:421-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.03.009. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Since more than a century, neuropsychological models have assumed that the left inferior parietal cortex is central to tool use by storing manipulation knowledge (the manipulation-based approach). Interestingly, recent neuropsychological evidence indicates that the left inferior parietal cortex might rather support the ability to reason about physical object properties (the reasoning-based approach). Historically, these two approaches have been developed from data obtained in left brain-damaged patients. This review is the first one to (1) give an overview of the two aforementioned approaches and (2) reanalyze functional neuroimaging data of the past decade to examine their predictions. Globally, we demonstrate that the left inferior parietal cortex is involved in the understanding of tool-use actions, providing support for the reasoning-based approach. We also discuss the functional involvement of the different regions of the tool-use brain network (left supramarginal gyrus, left intraparietal sulcus, left posterior temporal cortex). Our findings open promising avenues for future research on the neurocognitive basis of human tool use.

Keywords: Inferior parietal cortex; Manipulation knowledge; Mechanical knowledge; Meta-analysis; NeuroImaging; Tool use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*