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We describe the first brain event-related potential (ERP) study of cognitive processes in the chimpanzee. In an extension of our studies on the ontogeny of vocal perception, ERP measures were obtained during the presentation of simple nonsignal stimuli as well as conspecific and human vocalizations. We initially confirmed findings from humans and monkeys of the appearance of a long-latency positivity in the ERP waveform to a rare stimulus in an oddball paradigm. This ERP component is reminiscent of the P3a reported in humans under similar (passive) experimental conditions. We further demonstrated that both conspecific and human vocal stimuli having affective significance also enhanced late positive components of the ERP. These late positive components displayed a predominant fronto-central distribution, with a maxima at Cz. Additionally, responses to adaptively significant vocal stimuli showed a right hemisphere laterality, whereas no significant laterality was observed with the rare stimulus in the oddball paradigm. Results document the feasibility of ERP measures in chimpanzees and their potential utility in the study of the ontogeny and phylogeny of vocal perception.


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