The evolution of the arcuate fasciculus revealed with comparative DTI


The arcuate fasciculus is a white-matter fiber tract that is involved in human language. Here we compared cortical connectivity in humans, chimpanzees and macaques (Macaca mulatta) and found a prominent temporal lobe projection of the human arcuate fasciculus that is much smaller or absent in nonhuman primates. This human specialization may be relevant to the evolution of language.

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Figure 1: Color maps of principal diffusion direction in one in vivo human, one postmortem chimpanzee and one postmortem rhesus macaque brain.
Figure 2: Three-dimensional tractography results.
Figure 3: Two-dimensional tractography results.


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We thank Q. Shen and F. Zhao for technical assistance, and M.F.S. Rushworth and M.J. Konner for many helpful comments. We also thank P. Croxson for collecting the human scans and M.-M. Carrasco for assistance with tracking control pathways. This work was supported by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience Science and Technology Center Program of the National Science Foundation under agreement no. IBN-9876754, Emory University Research Committee, James S. McDonnell Foundation grant 21002093 to T.M.P., RO1EB002009 to X.H., the Yerkes Base Grant (NIH RR-00165) and the UK Medical Research Council to T.E.J.B.

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J.K.R. designed the study, acquired the nonhuman data, supervised analyses and wrote the paper. M.F.G. analyzed the data. T.M.P. acquired the nonhuman brains, assisted with data analysis and presentation, and wrote the paper. X.M., T.Z. and X.H. assisted with nonhuman primate protocol development, and T.E.J.B. and Oxford colleagues acquired the human data. T.E.J.B. oversaw the data-analysis strategy with the exception of the in vivo chimpanzee and macaque data presented in the supplementary information.

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Correspondence to James K Rilling.

Supplementary information

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Supplementary Figures 1–4, Table 1 and Methods (PDF 700 kb)

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Rilling, J., Glasser, M., Preuss, T. et al. The evolution of the arcuate fasciculus revealed with comparative DTI. Nat Neurosci 11, 426–428 (2008).

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