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Species-specific calls evoke asymmetric activity in the monkey's temporal poles


It has often been proposed that the vocal calls of monkeys are precursors of human speech, in part because they provide critical information to other members of the species who rely on them for survival and social interactions1,2. Both behavioural and lesion studies suggest that monkeys, like humans, use the auditory system of the left hemisphere preferentially to process vocalizations3,4. To investigate the pattern of neural activity that might underlie this particular form of functional asymmetry in monkeys, we measured local cerebral metabolic activity while the animals listened passively to species-specific calls compared with a variety of other classes of sound. Within the superior temporal gyrus, significantly greater metabolic activity occurred on the left side than on the right, only in the region of the temporal pole and only in response to monkey calls. This functional asymmetry was absent when these regions were separated by forebrain commissurotomy, suggesting that the perception of vocalizations elicits concurrent interhemispheric interactions that focus the auditory processing within a specialized area of one hemisphere.

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Figure 1: Metabolic activity (means and standard errors) in the monkey's dorsal temporal poles (sector 5 in the schematic brain view shown in Fig. 2) during presentation of six different classes of sound.
Figure 2: Metabolic activity in the left and right STG during presentation of six different sound classes (see Methods).
Figure 3: Metabolic activity values in sectors 2 and 5 for each individual subject for each of two sound classes, Mvoc and Mixed.


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We thank E. Moreton for programming a software package to phase-scramble the sounds. This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of NIMH, NIH, DHHS, and by internal funds from the University of Iowa.

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Correspondence to Amy Poremba.

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Supplementary Text: This contains supplementary methods, supplementary figure legends, supplementary table legends and tables. (DOC 78 kb)

Supplementary Figures 1-3 (PPT 645 kb)

Supplementary Figures 4 and 5 (PPT 320 kb)

Supplementary Figure 6 (PPT 1625 kb)

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Poremba, A., Malloy, M., Saunders, R. et al. Species-specific calls evoke asymmetric activity in the monkey's temporal poles. Nature 427, 448–451 (2004).

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