Left Brain Asymmetry of the Planum Temporale in a Nonhominid Primate: Redefining the Origin of Brain Specialization for Language


  • Marie Damien
  • Roth Muriel
  • Lacoste Romain
  • Nazarian Bruno
  • Bertello Alice
  • Anton Jean-Luc
  • Hopkins William
  • Margiotoudi Konstantina
  • Love Scott
  • Meguerditchian Adrien

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The planum temporale (PT) is a critical region of the language functional network in the human brain showing a striking size asymmetry toward the left hemisphere. Historically considered as a structural landmark of the left-brain specialization for language, a similar anatomical bias has been described in great apes but never in monkeys-indicating that this brain landmark might be unique to Hominidae evolution. In the present in vivo magnetic resonance imaging study, we show clearly for the first time in a nonhominid primate species, an Old World monkey, a left size predominance of the PT among 96 olive baboons (Papio anubis), using manual delineation of this region in each individual hemisphere. This asymmetric distribution was quasi-identical to that found originally in humans. Such a finding questions the relationship between PT asymmetry and the emergence of language, indicating that the origin of this cerebral specialization could be much older than previously thought, dating back, not to the Hominidae, but rather to the Catarrhini evolution at the common ancestor of humans, great apes and Old World monkeys, 30-40 million years ago.

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