Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
Functional imaging studies in humans have localized the motor-hand region to a neuroanatomical landmark call the KNOB within the precentral gyrus. It has also been reported that the KNOB is larger in the hemisphere contralateral to an individual's preferred hand, and therefore may represent the neural substrate for handedness. The KNOB has also been neuronatomically described in chimpanzees and other great apes and is similarly associated with handedness. However, whether the chimpanzee KNOB represents the hand region is unclear from the extant literature. Here, we used PET to quantify neural metabolic activity in chimpanzees when engaged in unilateral reach-and-grasping responses and found significantly lateralized activation of the KNOB region in the hemisphere contralateral to the hand used by the chimpanzees. We subsequently constructed a probabilistic map of the KNOB region in chimpanzees in order to assess the overlap in consistency in the anatomical landmarks of the KNOB with the functional maps generated from the PET analysis. We found significant overlap in the anatomical and functional voxels comprising the KNOB region, suggesting that the KNOB does correspond to the hand region in chimpanzees. Lastly, from the probabilistic maps, we compared right-and left-handed chimpanzees on lateralization in grey and white matter within the KNOB region and found that asymmetries in white matter of the KNOB region were larger in the hemisphere contralateral to the preferred hand. These results suggest that neuroanatomical asymmetries in the KNOB likely reflect changes in connectivity in primary motor cortex that are experience dependent in chimpanzees and possibly humans.
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