Limbic frontal cortex in hominoids: a comparative study of area 13

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1998 Jun;106(2):129-55. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199806)106:2<129::AID-AJPA3>3.0.CO;2-L.


The limbic frontal cortex forms part of the neural substrate responsible for emotional reactions to social stimuli. Area 13 is one of the cortical areas long known to be part of the posterior orbitofrontal cortex in several monkey species, such as the macaque. Its presence nevertheless in the human brain has been unclear, and the cortex of the frontal lobe of the great and lesser apes remains largely unknown. In this study area 13 was identified in human, chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, orangutan, and gibbon brains, and cortical maps were generated on the basis of its cytoarchitecture. Imaging techniques were used to characterize and quantify the microstructural organization of the area, and stereological tools were applied for estimates of the volume of area 13 in all species. Area 13 is conservative in its structure, and features such as size of cortical layers, density of neurons, and space available for connections are similar across hominoids with only subtle differences present. In contrast to the homogeneity found in its organization, variation is present in the relative size of this cortical area (as a percentage of total brain volume). The human and the bonobo include a complex orbitofrontal cortex and a relatively smaller area 13. On the contrary the orangutan stands out by having a shorter orbitofrontal region and a more expanded area 13. Differences in the organization and size of individual cortical areas involved in emotional reactions and social behavior can be related to behavioral specializations of each hominoid and to the evolution of emotions in hominids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy, Comparative
  • Animals
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Haplorhini / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans