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Researchers at Emory University have identified a language feature they say is unique to the human brain. It may shed light on how human language evolved.
Human brain cells have more complex interconnections in and around brain areas linked to language, explain the scientists.
This study marks the first use of diffusion tensor imaging, a non-invasive imaging technique, to compare human brain structures to those of chimpanzees, our closest living relative.
The researchers studied the arcuate fasciculus, a pathway that connects brain regions known to be involved in human language.
These parts of the brain include the so-called “Broca’s area” ( in the frontal lobe) and Wernicke’s area (in the temporal lobe at the side of the head).
They compared the size and trajectory of the arcuate fasciculus in humans, rhesus macaques and chimpanzees.
The human version has “much larger and more widespread projection to areas of the middle temporal lobe, outside of the classical Wernicke’s area,” said James Rilling of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory.
“We know from previous functional imaging studies that the middle temporal lobe is involved with analyzing the meanings of words. In humans, it seems the brain not only evolved larger language regions but also a network of fibers to connect those regions, which supports humans’ superior language capabilities.”
The study is published online in the research journal Nature Neuroscience.
source: online at www.world-science.net, on 3/24/08.
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