Functional Networks for Social Communication in the Macaque Monkey

Neuron. 2018 Jul 25;99(2):413-420.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.06.027. Epub 2018 Jul 12.


All primates communicate. To dissect the neural circuits of social communication, we used fMRI to map non-human primate brain regions for social perception, second-person (interactive) social cognition, and orofacial movement generation. Face perception, second-person cognition, and face motor networks were largely non-overlapping and acted as distinct functional units rather than an integrated feedforward-processing pipeline. Whereas second-person context selectively engaged a region of medial prefrontal cortex, production of orofacial movements recruited distributed subcortical and cortical areas in medial and lateral frontal and insular cortex. These areas exhibited some specialization, but not dissociation, of function along the medio-lateral axis. Production of lipsmack movements recruited areas including putative homologs of Broca's area. These findings provide a new view of the neural architecture for social communication and suggest expressive orofacial movements generated by lateral premotor cortex as a putative evolutionary precursor to human speech.

Keywords: anterior cingulate cortex; communication; fMRI; face movement; face perception; facial expression; language origins; nonhuman primate; social behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Facial Expression*
  • Macaca
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Social Behavior*