Genetic Factors and Orofacial Motor Learning Selectively Influence Variability in Central Sulcus Morphology in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)


  • Hopkins William D.
  • Coulon Oliver
  • Meguerditchian Adrien
  • Autrey Michelle
  • Davidek Kendall
  • Mahovetz Lindsay
  • Pope Sarah
  • Mareno Mary Catherine
  • Schapiro Steven J.


  • Vocal learning
  • Orofacial movements
  • Central sulcus
  • Chimpanzee
  • Heritability
  • Language

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Captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been shown to learn the use of novel attention-getting (AG) sounds to capture the attention of humans as a means of requesting or drawing their attention to a desired object or food. There are significant individual differences in the use of AG sounds by chimpanzees and, here, we examined whether changes in cortical organization of the central sulcus (CS) were associated with AG sound production. MRI scans were collected from 240 chimpanzees, including 122 that reliably produced AG sounds and 118 that did not. For each subject, the depth of CS was quantified along the superior-inferior plane with specific interest in the inferior portion corresponding to the region of the motor cortex where the mouth and orofacial movements are controlled. Results indicated that CS depth in the inferior, but not superior, portion was significantly greater in chimpanzees that reliably produced AG sounds compared with those who did not. Quantitative genetic analyses indicated that overall CS surface area and depth were significantly heritable, particularly in the superior regions, but less so in the inferior and central portions. Further, heritability in CS depth was altered as a function of acquisition of AG sounds. The collective results suggest that learning to produce AG sounds resulted in region-specific cortical reorganization within the inferior portion of the CS, a finding previously undocumented in chimpanzees or any nonhuman primate.

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