Emulate and Imitate

Veri ApriyatnoEmulation refers to the ability to copy the final product of an action, while imitation refers to the ability to copy a process. Monkeys mostly emulate, while apes are capable of some degree of imitation. Humans are unique in their complex levels of imitation. According to a DTI analysis by Erin Hecht and colleagues, there is an increase in the ratio fronto-parietal vs fronto-temporal connectivity from monkeys to apes to humans, which is a possible substrate for the evolutionary shift from emulation to imitation. In humans, the increased parietal connectivity could be related to increased visuo-spatial mapping ability during behavioural learning. Despite the difficulties when working with such complex behavioural categories, imitation is a basic feature for social learning, and for culture in general. And it seems that here we have yet more evidence of the involvement of the parietal areas in human evolution, linked to features specific to the modern human brain.


2 Responses to “Emulate and Imitate”

  1. 1 Erin Hecht May 23, 2013 at 18:13

    Thanks for featuring our findings! Our DTI results are consistent with your findings that parietal cortex has undergone neuroanatomical changes in hominid evolution. In looking at connectivity networks linking inferior parietal, inferior frontal, and lateral temporal regions, we saw relatively increased connectivity with the inferior parietal node of the network in humans. We also saw a superior parietal connection in this network that was evident in humans but not in macaque monkeys or chimpanzees. So, these DTI results are consistent with the idea that human parietal cortex has evolved new regions and/or new functions that support new behavioral/cognitive abilities. We hope to have some new papers soon, giving a more in-depth analysis of these connectivity networks and comparing activation differences in these regions in chimpanzees and humans. It seems there is more and more research from different labs pointing toward a role for parietal cortex in the evolution of human cognition… certainly an active and interesting area of research!

  2. 2 emilianobruner May 24, 2013 at 12:16

    Yes, now there is a lot of converging evidence, despite the scarce attention to these brain areas until a few years ago. Unfortunately we still lack volumetric data on apes’ parietal comparative neuroanatomy. The main problem there is homology, and the lack of clear and standard morphological boundaries. The role of the fronto-parietal network is definitely emerging as a relevant component in human brain evolution.

    Thanks for your comment, Erin!
    Looking forward to reading your future advances on these topics …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Brain News

RSS Cognitive archaeology

    This extended abstract represents a summary introduction to a work in progress, which will culminate in a publication and exhibition at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2018. It briefly outlines our discoveries and interpretations, which will be more fully presented, referenced and discussed in the forthcoming catalog. This presentation is available f […]

RSS The Skull Box

  • Craniovascular traits
    This month we have published a review on craniovascular traits and anthropology, freely available to download from the Journal of Anthropological Sciences. The article describes many vascular traits that can be analyzed on skulls, through the traces they leave on the bone surface or within the bone itself. The traces of the middle meningeal vessels, […]

RSS Anthropology

RSS Human Evolution

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Neurophilosophy

  • How to become a super memorizer – and what it does to your brain
    New research shows that we can train our brains to become memory champions To many of us, having to memorize a long list of items feels like a chore. But for others, it is more like a sport. Every year, hundreds of these ‘memory athletes’ compete with one another in the World Memory Championships, memorising hundreds of words, numbers, or other pieces of inf […]


This blog publishes texts and comments of the author, which can not be referred to institutions or contexts outside of the blog itself. The published material may be partly derived or reported from the Web, and therefore evaluated in the public domain. If some content violates copyright or if it is considered inappropriate, please contact me, to promptly remove it. On the other hand, please cite this source whenever using images or texts from this website.

%d bloggers like this: