Abstract # 42:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2011 03:40 PM-04:00 PM: Session 9 (Meeting Room 410) Oral Presentation


J. P. Taglialatela1,2
1Kennesaw State University, Department of Biology and Physics, Kennesaw, Georgia 30144, USA, 2Yerkes National Primate Research Center
     The study of communicative behavior in nonhuman primates is critical for understanding the evolutionary origins of human language and the biological substrates that support these competencies. However, data from the species with the closest phylogenetic relation to humans, chimpanzees, are relatively scarce. Previously, we have used anatomical and functional imaging, in conjunction with behavioral observations and experiments, to examine the neural correlates of vocal perception and processing, as well as the production of communicative signals in chimpanzees. In this talk, I will review these data in relation to the hypothesis that continuities exist between chimpanzee communicative behavior and components that are fundamental to human language. With regards to the perception of species-specific vocalizations, the data indicate that distinct functional classes of vocalizations are processed differently in the chimpanzee brain. Specifically, the data indicate right-lateralized activity in the chimpanzee posterior temporal lobe in response to certain calls, but not to others. In terms of production, the data indicate that chimpanzees produce manual communicative gestures in conjunction with vocalizations. In addition, the production of these signals selectively activates the Broca’s area homologue, suggesting that this critical human language region was involved in multimodal communicative signaling prior to the split between humans and chimpanzees some 5 million years ago. Collectively, these results point to a previously unrecognized level of complexity and flexibility in the chimpanzee vocal repertoire.