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projet de recherche
Evolution of cortical organization for communication: A comparative approach between humans, chimpanzees and baboons
Within the theoretical framework on the origins of human language and the brain, the proposed collaborative project aims at investigating the communicative system and its cerebral specialization using magnetic resonance images in nonhuman primates. The main objective is to develop, through an international collaboration with two laboratories affiliated to the BLRI (mainly the INT with Pascal Belin and the LPC with Adrien Meguerditchian) a t comparative study between baboons, chimpanzees and humans in order to better understand the evolutionary prerequisites of the human cortical organization for language in our common ancestors. Using the MRI anatomical brain images already collected in the 3 species, one of the objectives of the project is to investigate macrostructural asymmetries of regions of interest (related to language and voice processing in humans) and trying to homogenize the quantification procedure and anatomical landmarks across species. A specific focus will be made to the temporal lobe including the planum temporale (PT) and other auditory regions following the superior temporal sulcus (STS). A second objective of the project will be to explore noninvasive fMRI techniques for investigating the functional cortical asymmetries and neurocorrelates of vocalizations perception in anaesthetized baboons. Such approach will enable evaluating the potential overlapping between structural and functional asymmetries within the temporal lobe for voice perception.
William D. Hopkins, PhD, who has worked with chimpanzees and bonobos for nearly 30 years, takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying human evolution, particularly the evolution of human language. Through the study of nonhuman primates, the Hopkins lab is increasing our understanding of the roles that behavior, laterality, neuroanatomy, cellular organization and cortical function may have played in the evolution of human language.
Dr. Hopkins’ studies are focused on the documentation of functional asymmetries in nonhuman primates. This includes assessments of handedness, visual-half field studies and behavioral studies of facial expressions. The second line of behavioral research in chimpanzees is focused on gestural and vocal communication, particularly the functional use of communicative signals in chimpanzees. In addition, the lab has completed studies in chimpanzees using positron emission tomography (PET) to localize the motor hand area in this species and to explore the areas of the brain involved in the production of chimpanzee vocal and gestural communication.
In 2014, Dr. Hopkins was named Science Director at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) in Des Moines. In information released to the media, the IPLS said the addition of Dr. Hopkins and his colleague Dr. Jared Taglialatella of Kennesaw State University will spur a reinvigoration of the cognitive and behavioral research at the primate research facility. "I am honored to be asked to oversee the research program of such a valuable and important population of great apes," said Hopkins.