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15

Integration of Faces and Vocalizations in Ventral Prefrontal Cortex: Implications for the Evolution of Audiovisual Speech

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LIZABETH M. ROMANSKI

The integration of facial gestures and vocal signals is an essential process in human communication and relies on an interconnected circuit of brain regions, including language regions in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Studies have determined that ventral prefrontal cortical regions in macaques [e.g., the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC)] share similar cytoarchitectonic features as cortical areas in the human IFG, suggesting structural homology. Anterograde and retrograde tracing studies show that macaque VLPFC receives afferents from the superior and inferior temporal gyrus, which provide complex auditory and visual information, respectively. Moreover, physiological studies have shown that single neurons in VLPFC integrate species-specific face and vocal stimuli. Although bimodal responses may be found across a wide region of prefrontal cortex, vocalization responsive cells, which also respond to faces, are mainly found in anterior VLPFC. This suggests that VLPFC may be specialized to process and integrate social communication information, just as the IFG is specialized to process and integrate speech and gestures in the human brain.

The area dedicated to language processing in the frontal lobe is located within the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), which can be further subdivided into the pars opercularis (most posterior portion of

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Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, NY 14642. E-mail: liz_romanski@urmc.rochester.edu.



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