Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gorilla study gives clues to human language development

17.10.2008
A new University of Sussex study provides evidence that gorilla communication is linked to the left hemisphere of the brain - just as it is in humans.

Psychologist Dr Gillian Sebestyen Forrester developed a new method of analysing the behaviour of gorillas in captivity and found there was a right-handed bias for actions that also involved head and mouth movements. The right side of the body is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain, which is also the location for language development.

The findings could provide major clues as to how language developed in humans. Dr Sebestyen Forrester says: "We shared 23 million years of evolution with great apes and then diverged approximately six million years ago. Gorillas have highly-complex forms of non-verbal communication. I think we are looking back at what sort of communication skills we may have once had."

Previous studies by other researchers have found that chimpanzees show a right-handed preference for manual tasks. But Dr Sebestyn Forrester's research is the first to indicate a link between right-handedness and communication in apes.

The key to her findings, published Animal Behaviour, is the development of a detailed method for observing animals. "I have moved away from just studying visual communication signals of gorillas to looking for a method to capture, code and analyse these signals," she says. "For example, instead of subjectively labelling a behaviour as aggressive, I break down the behaviour into a sequence of stages based on eye gaze, facial expression and physical action. And I look for recurrent patterns within social context."

Dr Sebestyen Forrester carried out the research at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, where there is a large biological family group of gorillas living in an enclosure modelled on their natural wild habitat. She focussed her attention on one adult female, 13-year-old Foufou, her infant son, M'Passa, and their social network. Two cameras were used to capture Foufou's every movement and expression as she interacted with the group.

Dr Sebestyen Forrester says: "Apes, like humans, use a range of nonverbal communicative social skills, such as facial expression, eye gaze and manual gestures, and tactile signals, such as grooming and huddling, which are used for social cohesion. Analysing synchronous physical action can help us identify communication signals and may prove a better way to understand of how animals 'talk' to each other."

The method - known as multidimensional method (MDM) - can also be used to study other non-verbal groups. Dr Sebestyen Forrester is now piloting a study of children aged between two and four years with language impairments. "Data from this method could help us to better understand the nonverbal communication signals that were important for the evolution of language and are still necessary for the development of normal language skills," she says. "I hope it will lead to better diagnoses of conditions such as autism and the creation of new health and education programmes to help these children at an early stage. Current diagnostic tests are based on how well a child can understand verbal instruction, but if we look for other ways to communicate with them we may be able to learn much more about what is going on for them."

Jacqui Bealing | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sussex.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>