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Multi-region hemispheric specialization differentiates human from nonhuman primate brain function.

Wey HY, Phillips KA, McKay DR, Laird AR, Kochunov P, Davis MD, Glahn DC, Blangero J, Duong TQ, Fox PT, Brain Struct Funct 219 (6) :2187-94 (2014).

Abstract

The human behavioral repertoire greatly exceeds that of nonhuman primates. Anatomical specializations of the human brain include an enlarged neocortex and prefrontal cortex (Semendeferi et al. in Am J Phys Anthropol 114:224-241, 2001), but regional enlargements alone cannot account for these vast functional differences. Hemispheric specialization has long believed to be a major contributing factor to such distinctive human characteristics as motor dominance, attentional control and language. Yet structural cerebral asymmetries, documented in both humans and some nonhuman primate species, are relatively minor compared to behavioral lateralization. Identifying the mechanisms that underlie these functional differences remains a goal of considerable interest. Here, we investigate the intrinsic connectivity networks in four primate species (humans, chimpanzees, baboons, and capuchin monkeys) using resting-state fMRI to evaluate the intra- and inter- hemispheric coherences of spontaneous BOLD fluctuation. All three nonhuman primate species displayed lateralized functional networks that were strikingly similar to those observed in humans. However, only humans had multi-region lateralized networks, which provide fronto-parietal connectivity. Our results indicate that this pattern of within-hemisphere connectivity distinguishes humans from nonhuman primates.