Background: The left hemisphere of the human brain is dominant in the production of speech and signed language. Whether similar lateralization of function for communicative signal production is present in other primates remains a topic of considerable debate. In the current study, we examined whether oro-facial movements associated with the production of learned attention-getting sounds are differentially lateralized compared to facial expressions associated with the production of species-typical emotional vocalizations in chimpanzees. Methodology/Principal Findings: Still images captured from digital video were used to quantify oro-facial asymmetries in the production of two attention-getting sounds and two species-typical vocalizations in a sample of captive chimpanzees. Comparisons of mouth asymmetries during production of these sounds revealed significant rightward biased asymmetries for the attention-getting sounds and significant leftward biased asymmetries for the species-typical sounds. Conclusions/Significance: These results suggest that the motor control of oro-facial movements associated with the production of learned sounds is lateralized to the left hemisphere in chimpanzees. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the antecedents for lateralization of human speech may have been present in the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans ∼5 mya and are not unique to the human lineage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas