A review of lateralization of spatial functioning in nonhuman primates

Anna Oleksiak, Albert Postma, Ineke J.M. van der Ham, P. Christiaan Klink, Richard Jack Anton van Wezel

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    The majority of research on functional cerebral lateralization in primates revolves around vocal abilities, addressing the evolutionary origin of the human language faculty and its predominance in the left hemisphere of the brain. Right hemisphere specialization in spatial cognition is commonly reported in humans. This functional asymmetry is especially evident in the context of the unilateral neglect, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space, that more frequently occurs after right-side rather than left-side brain damage. Since most of the research efforts are concentrated on vocalization in primates, much less is known about the presence or absence of spatial functions lateralization. Obtaining this knowledge can provide insight into the evolutionary aspect of the functionally lateralized brain of Homo sapiens and deliver refinement and validation of the nonhuman primate unilateral neglect model. This paper reviews the literature on functional brain asymmetries in processing spatial information, limiting the search to nonhuman primates, and concludes there is no clear evidence that monkeys process spatial information with different efficiency in the two hemispheres. We suggest that lateralization of spatial cognition in humans represents a relatively new feature on the evolutionary time scale, possibly developed as a by-product of the left hemisphere intrusion of language competence. Further, we argue that the monkey model of hemispatial neglect requires reconsideration.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)56-72
    Number of pages17
    JournalBrain research reviews
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


    • EWI-19188
    • BSS-Neurotechnology and cellular engineering
    • Lateralization
    • Spatial cognition
    • Evolution
    • Nonhuman primate
    • Unilateral neglect
    • METIS-278693
    • IR-76469

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