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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00174

A Brain for Speech. Evolutionary continuity in primate and human auditory-vocal processing

  • 1Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

In this review article, I propose a continuous evolution from the auditory-vocal apparatus and its mechanisms of neural control in non-human primates, to the peripheral organs and the neural control of human speech. Although there is an overall conservatism both in peripheral systems and in central neural circuits, a few changes were critical for the expansion of vocal plasticity and the elaboration of proto-speech in early humans. Two of the most relevant changes were the acquisition of direct cortical control of the vocal fold musculature and the consolidation of an auditory-vocal articulatory circuit, encompassing auditory areas in the temporoparietal junction and prefrontal and motor areas in the frontal cortex. This articulatory loop, also referred to as the phonological loop, enhanced vocal working memory capacity, enabling early humans to learn increasingly complex utterances. The auditory-vocal circuit became progressively coupled to multimodal systems conveying information about objects and events, which gradually led to the acquisition of modern speech. Gestural communication accompanies the development of vocal communication since very early in human evolution, and although both systems co-evolved tightly in the beginning, at some point speech became the main channel of communication.

Keywords: Speech, working memory, evolution, Vocalization, Animal, Arcuate Fasciculus

Received: 13 Oct 2017; Accepted: 05 Mar 2018.

Edited by:

Ralph L. Holloway, Columbia University, United States

Reviewed by:

James Rilling, Independent researcher
David Geary, University of Missouri, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Aboitiz. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Francisco Aboitiz, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile,