Gorillas' right-handedness gives new clues to human language development

May 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study that has identified a right-handed dominance in gorillas may also reveal how tool use led to language development in humans.

Psychologist Dr Gillian Forrester, a visiting fellow at the University of Sussex, has been studying a family of at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. Using a specially developed coding system for analysis, she and her team identified which hand gorillas used when doing activities such as: using objects and eating or preparing food (described as 'inanimate targets), and which hand they used for social interactions, such as: scratching their head, patting their friend on the back or mothering ('animate targets').

They found the gorillas were more likely to use their right hands for inanimate targets and either hand with equal frequency - for . In the , 90 per cent are right-handed - and 95 per cent of these right-handers have language centres in the left hemisphere of the brain.


Female gorilla using a stick to extract honey

Dr Forrester's study suggests a direct link between the area of the brain used for manipulating inanimate objects and its specialisation for language skills. She says: 'It is thought that humans exhibit extreme population right-handedness as a sign of our left hemisphere language centers. While a causal relationship is yet to be discovered, this argument for human right-handedness has been bolstered in the past by great ape studies that reveal no consistent population bias for using either hand.'

'These new findings represent a breakthrough in the attempt to define a causal relationship between language and right-handedness,' she adds. 'While apes do not demonstrate language abilities, MRI scans of great apes show that they do share with humans areas designated for language skills in the left hemisphere of the brain. In apes, these areas are active during tool use.'


Video of (family group)

Dr Forrester says the relationship between right-handedness and language may be due to the repurposing of a brain area once used for structured sequences of events, such as tool use and manufacture, in a common human-ape ancestor. 'The basic hierarchy of steps required to make and use tools could be akin to providing us with the scaffolding to build a syntax for .'

The study, 'Target animacy influences gorilla handedness', is published this month in Animal Cognition.

Explore further: Philippine tarsier gets boost from Kansas research, and genetic proof of a new variety

Related Stories

Recommended for you

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (6) May 20, 2011
Dr Forrester is hereby scraping the bottom of the evolutionary barrel in trying to find an explanation for the existence of language in the human brain. Since evolution [defined as descend from a single common ancestor] is biologically impossible, she is on a hiding to nothing. Whatever further results she comes up with, it'll only be conjecture and a guess as to the probability of the evolution of language in the human brain, given an ancestor from the ape/chimp family.
We were created directly as human beings with language, music and emotional expression in place from day one. No evolution required.
I contend that [single ancestor] evolution is impossible since the proposed mechanisms, namely random mutation and natural selection, are incapable of generating the complex information required to create new materials, new structures, shapes, functions and abilities to use/employ those new structures and capabilities. Most of these lie OUTSIDE of the cell, hence no inside changes helps.
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (1) May 20, 2011
@kevinrts Thus throwing out the windows the better part of the last 100 years.
Donutz
5 / 5 (1) May 20, 2011
@kevinrts:

Please show any evidence at all for the existance of your magical sky fairy, or any brand of sky fairy. I'm not fussy. Then please show evidence that your imaginary friend had anything to do with the writing of your favorite book of fairy tales. Then show that he/she/it intended said fables to be taken literally. THEN you can use it as the basis for scientific debate. Until then, you're just a brief chuckle.
Donutz
3 / 5 (2) May 20, 2011
@kevinrts:

Also, in reference to your last paragraph.. you can contend anything you want, but since you've demonstrated time and again that your scientific knowledge lies somewhere below that of a flatworm, you don't really have a lot of credibility. Actually, the word "zero" comes to mind.
Ionian
not rated yet May 20, 2011
Excellent videos.
Clearly shows left hand social interactions, which occupy right side of brain, leaving the left side of the brain available for left brain activities (like speech).
Awesome.

Why don't gorilla's speak with grammatical language? They have vocal chords... Do they lack control of their tongues, or lips, or breath control? Could it be possible to genetically modify gorillas to compensate? Does anybody think that we humans could modify gorillas or any ape in such a way as to remove whatever speech impediment, they might have?

@kevinrts Please don't reply.
hayde
not rated yet May 21, 2011
i saw this video and this is very useful video and now i am fully impress for is work.

Namenda side effects

stanfrax
not rated yet May 21, 2011
cool ancestor - not the same species - we produce off spring and can only be done with our own species - We all have the same internal organs - any differences - gravity - the sun did it to help you adapt and survive - hair fell out through sweat chasing animals that could pant - the backside mussel was formed through running after them - the tail dissolved and left a small piece at the bottom of the spine - happy when our wisdom teeth came through - chew the branches - if we were brought up in the forest raised by wolfs we would be running around howling and think nothing of it - what to teach the ape - that WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY to release our species from all shackles but is held back - leaders running the planet are insane - give it the training ground for death that have all been used to gain resources and kill our species - tell it its the ONLY right you have left on this planet - YOU CAN BELIEVE IN WHATEVER YOU WANT - teach it to laugh in his poor cage - how were nurtured
kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (3) May 21, 2011
@Donuts:
Please show any evidence at all for the existance of your magical sky fairy, or any brand of sky fairy.

You are actually looking at the evidence day in and day out right in front of your eyes. Everytime you look into the mirror you see the evidence of the most complex CREATION you can get. Yet, because you do not WANT to belief in a creator, you are blind to the evidence.
Strange that for one claiming to know how scientifically un-knowledgeable I am, you refuse to use the very scientific knowledge you thereby claim to have to see that evolution is impossible. Strange, that. The discoveries of complexities found in the cell are mounting day by day. I'll just mention two of them that nail evolution to the floor: 1) scaffold proteins 2) One 3-dimensional shape that serves up to seven protein formations - all with different purposes, yet all extremely precise and all vital. Researchers looking at that kind of functionality from an evolutionary point of view are stumped.
SCVGoodToGo
not rated yet May 23, 2011
kevin: too long, too inane, didn't read.

How is it you replied on the 21st? Shouldn't you have been raptured?