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Human-specific increase of dopaminergic innervation in a striatal region associated with speech and language: A comparative analysis of the primate basal ganglia.

The dopaminergic innervation of the striatum has been implicated in learning processes and in the development of human speech and language. Several lines of evidence suggest that evolutionary changes in dopaminergic afferents of the striatum may be associated with uniquely human cognitive and behavioral abilities, including the association of the human-specific sequence of the FOXP2 gene with decreased dopamine in the dorsomedial striatum of mice. To examine this possibility, we quantified the density of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive axons as a measure of dopaminergic innervation within five basal ganglia regions in humans, great apes, and New and Old World monkeys. Our results indicate that humans differ from nonhuman primate species in having a significant increase in dopaminergic innervation selectively localized to the medial caudate nucleus. This region of the striatum is highly interconnected, receiving afferents from multiple neocortical regions, and supports behavioral and cognitive flexibility. The medial caudate nucleus also shows hyperactivity in humans lacking a functional FOXP2 allele and exhibits altered dopamine concentrations in humanized Foxp2 mice. Additionally, striatal dopaminergic input was not altered in chimpanzees that used socially learned attention-getting sounds versus those that did not. This evidence indicates that the increase in dopamine innervation of the medial caudate nucleus in humans is a species-typical characteristic not associated with experience-dependent plasticity. The specificity of this increase may be related to the degree of convergence from cortical areas within this region of the striatum and may also be involved in human speech and language. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:2117-2129, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Pubmed ID: 26715195 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Adult | Analysis of Variance | Animals | Corpus Striatum | Dopamine | Female | Humans | Language | Male | Middle Aged | Primates | Species Specificity | Speech | Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase | Young Adult

Data used in this publication

None found

Associated grants

  • Agency: NIA NIH HHS, Id: P30 AG013854
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: R24 NS092988
  • Agency: NCRR NIH HHS, Id: P51 RR000166
  • Agency: NCRR NIH HHS, Id: M01 RR000048
  • Agency: NIA NIH HHS, Id: R44 AG014308
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: R01 NS073134
  • Agency: NIH HHS, Id: U42 OD011158
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: R01 NS042867

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