A structure critical to our brain's core language pathway, found only in humans and apes, has now also been identified in monkeys, according to a controversial new study - suggesting the origins of language may have appeared 20 to 25 million years earlier than previously thought.
Compared to other animals, the human brain is uniquely adapted to language. Our ability to produce speech, listen, and communicate with one another is unparalleled, and to understand why, we need to know how we got here.
Unfortunately, brain tissue doesn't survive over evolutionary timescales, so it's hard to know when the first building blocks for language appeared in our distant past. Today, if we want to locate this missing brain 'fossil', scientists must largely rely on our living cousins.
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