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Broca's arrow: evolution, prediction, and language in the brain.


Anatomical record. Part B, New anatomist


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      Brodmann's areas 44 and 45 in the human brain, also known as Broca's area, have long been associated with language functions, especially in the left hemisphere. However, the precise role Broca's area plays in human language has not been established with certainty. Broca's area has homologs in the great apes and in area F5 in monkeys, which suggests that its original function was not linguistic at all. In fact, great ape and hominid brains show very similar left-over-right asymmetries in Broca's area homologs as well as in other areas, such as homologs to Wernicke's area, that are normally associated with language in modern humans. Moreover, the so-called mirror neurons are located in Broca's area in great apes and area F5 in monkeys, which seem to provide a representation of cause and effect in a primate's environment, particularly its social environment. Humans appear to have these mirror neurons in Broca's area as well. Similarly, genetic evidence related to the FOXP2 gene implicates Broca's area in linguistic function and dysfunction, but the gene itself is a highly conserved developmental gene in vertebrates and is shared with only two or three differences between humans and great apes, five between humans and mice, and eight between humans and songbirds. Taking neurons and portions of the brain as discrete computational segments in the sense of constituting specific Turing machines, this evidence points to a predictive motor and conceptual function for Broca's area in primates, especially for social concepts. In human language, this is consistent with evidence from typological and cognitive linguistics.

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      [1 ] Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
      Anat Rec B New Anat
      Anatomical record. Part B, New anatomist
      Jan 2006
      : 289
      : 1


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