Scientific article
Open access

Frontal mechanisms underlying primate calls recognition by humans

Published inCerebral cortex communications, vol. 4, no. 4, tgad019
Publication date2023-11-17
First online date2023-11-02


The ability to process verbal language seems unique to humans and relies not only on semantics but on other forms of communication such as affective vocalizations, that we share with other primate species—particularly great apes (Hominidae).


To better understand these processes at the behavioral and brain level, we asked human participants to categorize vocalizations of four primate species including human, great apes (chimpanzee and bonobo), and monkey (rhesus macaque) during MRI acquisition.


Classification was above chance level for all species but bonobo vocalizations. Imaging analyses were computed using a participant-specific, trial-by-trial fitted probability categorization value in a model-based style of data analysis. Model-based analyses revealed the implication of the bilateral orbitofrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus pars triangularis (IFGtri) respectively correlating and anti-correlating with the fitted probability of accurate species classification. Further conjunction analyses revealed enhanced activity in a sub-area of the left IFGtri specifically for the accurate classification of chimpanzee calls compared to human voices.


Our data—that are controlled for acoustic variability between species—therefore reveal distinct frontal mechanisms that shed light on how the human brain evolved to process vocal signals.

  • Decision-making
  • Human brain
  • Model-based
  • Neuroimaging
  • Primate vocalizations
Citation (ISO format)
CERAVOLO, Léonardo et al. Frontal mechanisms underlying primate calls recognition by humans. In: Cerebral cortex communications, 2023, vol. 4, n° 4, p. tgad019. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgad019
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2632-7376

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