Brief communication: How much larger is the relative volume of area 10 of the prefrontal cortex in humans?



It has long been thought that the prefrontal cerebral cortex has been greatly expanded in the human brain. Semendeferi et al. ([2001] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 114:224–241) showed that Brodmann's area 10 is relatively larger in the human compared to pongid brains. The question is: how much larger relatively is it? Using their data, it can be shown that the relative increase for human prefrontal area 10 is only 6% larger. Looking at the data base of neural structures provided by Stephan et al. ([1981] Folia Primatol. (Basel) 35:1–29), it is apparent that 6% is a relatively low residual value from a predicted value based on allometric considerations between total brain weight and any given neural structure. When this small increase is combined with their earlier findings on area 13 of prefrontal cortex (Semendeferi et al. [1997] J. Hum. Evol. 32:375–388), it appears that the prefrontal cortex in humans is not some 200% larger as claimed by some researchers (Deacon [1997] Symbolic Species, New York: W.W. Norton; cf. Holloway [1998] Am Sci 86:184–186), and that the findings of Semendeferi et al. ([2001] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 114:224–241) are in agreement with the earlier work (Semendeferi and Damasio [2000] J. Hum. Evol. 38:317–332; Semendeferi et al. [1997] J. Hum. Evol. 32:375–388), showing that the human frontal lobe volume is what would be expected for a primate of its brain size. While the prefrontal cortex may have increased relatively in Homo sapiens, the increase is likely to have been far less than currently believed. Am J Phys Anthropol 118:399–401, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.