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Humans are vocal modulators par excellence. This ability is supported in part by the dual representation of the laryngeal muscles in the motor cortex. Movement, however, is not the product of motor cortex alone but of a broader motor network. This network consists of brain regions that contain somatotopic maps that parallel the organization in motor cortex. We therefore present a novel hypothesis that the dual laryngeal representation is repeated throughout the broader motor network. In support of the hypothesis, we review existing literature that demonstrates the existence of network-wide somatotopy and present initial evidence for the hypothesis' plausibility. Understanding how this uniquely human phenotype in motor cortex interacts with broader brain networks is an important step toward understanding how humans evolved the ability to speak. We further suggest that this system may provide a means to study how individual components of the nervous system evolved within the context of neuronal networks. This article is part of the theme issue 'Voice modulation: from origin and mechanism to social impact (Part I)'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





brain evolution, cerebellum, larynx, motor system, somatotopy, supplementary motor area, Brain, Brain Mapping, Larynx, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Motor Cortex, Movement