Arcuate Fasciculus Size and Trajectory

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The size and trajectory of the human arcuate fasciculus is unique. The arcuate fasciculus is a white-matter fiber tract that links lateral temporal cortex with frontal cortex via a dorsal projection that arches around the Sylvain fissure. Lesion studies indicate that this pathway is critically involved with human language. Nineteenth century neurologists used gross dissection to reveal its general trajectory in the human brain, but recent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies have revealed its specific terminations. The temporal projection of the arcuate reaches beyond classic Wernicke’s area in the superior temporal gyrus (STG), to the middle (MTG) and inferior (ITG) temporal gyri, areas known to be involved in lexical-semantic processing. On the other hand, the frontal projection reaches beyond classic Broca’s area in the pars opercularis (BA 44) and pars triangularis (BA 45), to the ventral premotor cortex (BA 6), pars orbitalis (BA 47) and the middle frontal gyrus (BA 9), regions also known to be involved in various aspects of language comprehension and production. On average, the human arcuate fasciculus is larger in the left than the right cerebral hemisphere, consistent with the fact that the left hemisphere is dominant for language in most humans. In chimpanzees, arcuate terminations are considerably more restricted, being focused on the superior temporal gyrus posteriorly, and on the ventral aspects of premotor cortex (BA 6) and pars opercularis (BA 44) anteriorly. In macaques, the arcuate is believed to project most strongly to dorsal prefrontal cortex rather than to Broca’s area homologue. The expanded pathway in humans may support the transmission of word-meaning information stored in the MTG and ITG to Broca’s area and surrounding cortex for both sentence comprehension and sentence construction during spontaneous speech.



Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Possible Appearance: 
3,000 thousand years ago
Probable Appearance: 
1,800 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago
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Broca's and Wernicke's Areas True


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