Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
New research suggests a surprising degree of similarity in the organization of regions of the brain that control language and complex thought processes in humans and monkeys. The study, published online January 28 in the Cell Press journal Neuron, also revealed some key differences. The findings may provide valuable insights into the evolutionary processes that established our ties to other primates but also made us distinctly human.
The research concerns the ventrolateral frontal cortex, a region of the brain known for more than 150 years to be important for cognitive processes including language, cognitive flexibility, and decision-making. "It has been argued that to develop these abilities, humans had to evolve a completely new neural apparatus; however others have suggested precursors to these specialized brain systems might have existed in other primates," explains lead author Dr. Franz-Xaver Neubert of the University of Oxford, in the UK.
By using non-invasive MRI techniques in 25 people and 25 macaques, Dr. Neubert and his team compared ventrolateral frontal cortex connectivity and architecture in humans and monkeys. The investigators were surprised to find many similarities in the connectivity of these regions. This suggests that some uniquely human cognitive traits may rely on an evolutionarily conserved neural apparatus that initially supported different functions. Additional research may reveal how slight changes in connectivity accompanied or facilitated the development of distinctly human abilities.
The researchers also noted some key differences between monkeys and humans. For example, ventrolateral frontal cortex circuits in the two species differ in the way that they interact with brain areas involved with hearing.
"This could explain why monkeys perform very poorly in some auditory tasks and might suggest that we humans use auditory information in a different way when making decisions and selecting actions," says Dr. Neubert.
A region in the human ventrolateral frontal cortex - called the lateral frontal pole - does not seem to have an equivalent area in the monkey. This area is involved with strategic planning, decision-making, and multi-tasking abilities.
"This might relate to humans being particularly proficient in tasks that require strategic planning and decision making as well as 'multi-tasking'", says Dr. Neubert.
Interestingly, some of the ventrolateral frontal cortex regions that were similar in humans and monkeys are thought to play roles in psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and substance abuse. A better understanding of the networks that are altered in these disorders might lead to therapeutic insights.
Neubert et al.: "Comparison of human ventral frontal cortex areas for cognitive control and language with areas in monkey frontal cortex." Neuron (2014), DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.11.012
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our Neurology / Neuroscience category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Press, Cell. "Surprising research results reveal brain regions thought to be uniquely human share many similarities with monkeys." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 30 Jan. 2014. Web.
16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/271864>
Press, C. (2014, January 30). "Surprising research results reveal brain regions thought to be uniquely human share many similarities with monkeys." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/271864.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2014 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.