The extent to which neural circuits and mechanisms underlying sensory, motor, and cognitive cortical functions in the human brain are shared with those of other animals, especially non-human primates, is currently a key issue in the field of comparative neuroscience. Cortical functions result from the conjoint function of different, reciprocally connected areas working together as large-scale functionally specialized networks, which can be investigated in human subjects thanks to the development of non-invasive functional and connectional imaging techniques. In spite of their limitations in terms of spatial and temporal resolution, these techniques make it possible to address the issue of how and to what extent the neural mechanisms for different cortical functions differ from those of non-human primates. Indeed, 30 million years of independent evolution have resulted in significant differences between the brains of humans and macaques, which are the experimental model system phylogenetically closest to humans for obtaining highly detailed anatomical and functional information on the organization of cortical networks. In the macaque brain, architectonic, connectional, and functional data have provided evidence for functionally specialized large-scale cortical networks involving temporal, parietal, and frontal areas. These networks appear to play a primary role in controlling different aspects of motor and cognitive motor functions, such as hand action organization and recognition, or oculomotor behavior and gaze processing. In the present review, based on the comparison of these data with data from human studies, we will argue that there is clear evidence for human counterparts of these networks. These human and macaque putatively homolog networks appear to share phylogenetically older neural mechanisms, which, in the evolution of the human lineage, could have been exploited and differentiated, resulting in the emergence of human-specific higher-order cognitive functions. These considerations are fully in line with the notion of "neural reuse" in primate evolution.
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