Vocal control by the common marmoset in the presence of interfering noise.
ABSTRACT: The natural environment is inherently noisy with acoustic interferences. It is, therefore, beneficial for a species to modify its vocal production to effectively communicate in the presence of interfering noises. Non-human primates have been traditionally considered to possess limited voluntary vocal control, but little is known about their ability to modify vocal behavior when encountering interfering noises. Here we tested the ability of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) to control the initiation of vocalizations and maintain vocal interactions between pairs in an acoustic environment in which the length and predictability (periodic or random aperiodic occurrences) of interfering noise bursts were varied. Despite the presence of interfering noise, the marmosets continued to engage in antiphonal calling behavior. Results showed that the overwhelming majority of calls were initiated during silence gaps even when the length of the silence gap following each noise burst was unpredictable. During the periodic noise conditions, as the length of the silence gap decreased, the latency between the end of noise burst and call onset decreased significantly. In contrast, when presented with aperiodic noise bursts, the marmosets chose to call predominantly during long (4 and 8 s) over short (2 s) silence gaps. In the 8 s periodic noise conditions, a marmoset pair either initiated both calls of an antiphonal exchange within the same silence gap or exchanged calls in two consecutive silence gaps. Our findings provide compelling evidence that common marmosets are capable of modifying their vocal production according to the dynamics of their acoustic environment during vocal communication.
Project description:The acoustic properties of vocalizations in common marmosets differ between populations. These differences may be the result of social vocal learning, but they can also result from environmental or genetic differences between populations. We performed translocation experiments to separately quantify the influence of a change in the physical environment (experiment 1), and a change in the social environment (experiment 2) on the acoustic properties of calls from individual captive common marmosets. If population differences were due to genetic differences, we expected no change in the vocalizations of the translocated marmosets. If differences were due to environmental factors, we expected vocalizations to permanently change contingent with environmental changes. If social learning was involved, we expected that the vocalizations of animals translocated to a new population with a different dialect would become more similar to the new population. In experiment 1, we translocated marmosets to a different physical environment without changing the social composition of the groups or their neighbours. Immediately after the translocation to the new facility, one out of three call types showed a significant change in call structure, but 5-6 weeks later, the calls were no longer different from before the translocation. Thus, the novel physical environment did not induce long lasting changes in the vocalizations of the marmosets. In experiment 2, we translocated marmosets to a new population with a different dialect. Importantly, our previous work had shown that these two populations differed significantly in vocalization structure. The translocated marmosets were still housed in their original social group, but after translocation they were surrounded by the vocalizations from neighbouring groups of the new population. The vocal distance between the translocated individuals and the new population decreased for two out of three call types over 16 weeks. Thus, even without direct social contact or interaction, the vocalizations of the translocated animals converged towards the new population, indicating that common marmosets can modify their calls due to acoustic input from conspecifics alone, via crowd vocal learning. To our knowledge, this is the first study able to distinguish between different explanations for vocal dialects as well as to show crowd vocal learning in a primate species.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Auditory sustained responses have been recently suggested to reflect neural processing of speech sounds in the auditory cortex. As periodic fluctuations below the pitch range are important for speech perception, it is necessary to investigate how low frequency periodic sounds are processed in the human auditory cortex. Auditory sustained responses have been shown to be sensitive to temporal regularity but the relationship between the amplitudes of auditory evoked sustained responses and the repetitive rates of auditory inputs remains elusive. As the temporal and spectral features of sounds enhance different components of sustained responses, previous studies with click trains and vowel stimuli presented diverging results. In order to investigate the effect of repetition rate on cortical responses, we analyzed the auditory sustained fields evoked by periodic and aperiodic noises using magnetoencephalography. RESULTS: Sustained fields were elicited by white noise and repeating frozen noise stimuli with repetition rates of 5-, 10-, 50-, 200- and 500 Hz. The sustained field amplitudes were significantly larger for all the periodic stimuli than for white noise. Although the sustained field amplitudes showed a rising and falling pattern within the repetition rate range, the response amplitudes to 5 Hz repetition rate were significantly larger than to 500 Hz. CONCLUSIONS: The enhanced sustained field responses to periodic noises show that cortical sensitivity to periodic sounds is maintained for a wide range of repetition rates. Persistence of periodicity sensitivity below the pitch range suggests that in addition to processing the fundamental frequency of voice, sustained field generators can also resolve low frequency temporal modulations in speech envelope.
Project description:As urbanization has expanded dramatically, the impacts of urban noise on wildlife have drawn increasing attention. However, previous studies have focused primarily on diurnal songbirds and much less on nocturnal nonpasserines such as nightjars. The savanna nightjar has recently successfully colonized urban areas in Taiwan. Using 1925 calls recorded from 67 individuals, we first investigated the individual differences of the acoustic structures; and, for those acoustic variables with significant individual differences, we examined the correlation between the acoustic structures and the ambient noise levels. We then compared the transmission efficacy of vocal individuality among three sets of acoustic variables: all acoustic variables, noise-related variables, and noise-unrelated variables. Using seven artificial frequency-shifted calls to represent seven different individuals in playback-recording experiments, we also investigated the transmission efficacy of vocal individuality and variable accuracy in three different urban noise levels (high, medium, low). We found that all 30 acoustic variables derived from the acoustic structures demonstrated significant individual differences, and 14 frequency-based variables were negatively correlated with ambient noise levels. Although transmission efficacy was significantly affected by urban noise, individuality information was still transmitted with high accuracy. Furthermore, the noise-unrelated structures (which included the maximum frequency, the maximum amplitude frequency, and the mean frequency of the call) had a significantly higher transmission efficacy of vocal individuality than the noise-related variables (which included the minimum frequency, the frequency at the start and the end of the call) in both field observation and playback-recording experiments. We conclude that these noise-unrelated acoustic features may be one of the key preadaptations for this nocturnal nonpasserine to thrive so successfully in its newly adopted urban environment.
Project description:Humans exhibit a high level of vocal plasticity in speech production, which allows us to acquire both native and foreign languages and dialects, and adapt to local accents in social communication. In comparison, non-human primates exhibit limited vocal plasticity, especially in adulthood, which would limit their ability to adapt to different social and environmental contexts in vocal communication. Here, we quantitatively examined the ability of adult common marmosets ( Callithrix jacchus), a highly vocal New World primate species, to modulate their vocal production in social contexts. While recent studies have demonstrated vocal learning in developing marmosets, we know much less about the extent of vocal learning and plasticity in adult marmosets. We found, in the present study, that marmosets were able to adaptively modify the spectrotemporal structure of their vocalizations when they encountered interfering sounds. Our experiments showed that marmosets shifted the spectrum of their vocalizations away from the spectrum of the interfering sounds in order to avoid the overlap. More interestingly, we found that marmosets made predictive and long-lasting spectral shifts in their vocalizations after they had experienced a particular type of interfering sound. These observations provided evidence for directional control of the vocalization spectrum and long-term vocal plasticity by adult marmosets. The findings reported here have important implications for the ability of this New World primate species in voluntarily and adaptively controlling their vocal production in social communication.
Project description:Vocal signaling is one of many behaviors that animals perform during social interactions. Vocalizations produced by both sexes before mating can communicate sex, identity and condition of the caller. Adult golden hamsters produce ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) after intersexual contact. To determine whether these vocalizations are sexually dimorphic, we analyzed the vocal repertoire for sex differences in: 1) calling rates, 2) composition (structural complexity, call types and nonlinear phenomena) and 3) acoustic structure. In addition, we examined it for individual variation in the calls. The vocal repertoire was mainly composed of 1-note simple calls and at least half of them presented some degree of deterministic chaos. The prevalence of this nonlinear phenomenon was confirmed by low values of harmonic-to-noise ratio for most calls. We found modest sexual differences between repertoires. Males were more likely than females to produce tonal and less chaotic calls, as well as call types with frequency jumps. Multivariate analysis of the acoustic features of 1-note simple calls revealed significant sex differences in the second axis represented mostly by entropy and bandwidth parameters. Male calls showed lower entropy and inter-quartile bandwidth than female calls. Because the variation of acoustic structure within individuals was higher than among individuals, USV could not be reliably assigned to the correct individual. Interestingly, however, this high variability, augmented by the prevalence of chaos and frequency jumps, could be the result of increased vocal effort. Hamsters motivated to produce high calling rates also produced longer calls of broader bandwidth. Thus, the sex differences found could be the result of different sex preferences but also of a sex difference in calling motivation or condition. We suggest that variable and complex USV may have been selected to increase responsiveness of a potential mate by communicating sexual arousal and preventing habituation to the caller.
Project description:Humans as well as many animal species reveal their emotional state in their voice. Vocal features show strikingly similar correlation patterns with emotional states across mammalian species, suggesting that the vocal expression of emotion follows highly conserved signalling rules. To fully understand the principles of emotional signalling in mammals it is, however, necessary to also account for any inconsistencies in the way that they are acoustically encoded. Here we investigate whether the expression of emotions differs between call types produced by the same species. We compare the acoustic structure of two common piglet calls-the scream (a distress call) and the grunt (a contact call)-across three levels of arousal in a negative situation. We find that while the central frequency of calls increases with arousal in both call types, the amplitude and tonal quality (harmonic-to-noise ratio) show contrasting patterns: as arousal increased, the intensity also increased in screams, but not in grunts, while the harmonicity increased in screams but decreased in grunts. Our results suggest that the expression of arousal depends on the function and acoustic specificity of the call type. The fact that more vocal features varied with arousal in scream calls than in grunts is consistent with the idea that distress calls have evolved to convey information about emotional arousal.
Project description:Speech communication in real-world environments requires adaptation to changing acoustic conditions. How the human auditory cortex adapts as a new noise source appears in or disappears from the acoustic scene remain unclear. Here, we directly measured neural activity in the auditory cortex of six human subjects as they listened to speech with abruptly changing background noises. We report rapid and selective suppression of acoustic features of noise in the neural responses. This suppression results in enhanced representation and perception of speech acoustic features. The degree of adaptation to different background noises varies across neural sites and is predictable from the tuning properties and speech specificity of the sites. Moreover, adaptation to background noise is unaffected by the attentional focus of the listener. The convergence of these neural and perceptual effects reveals the intrinsic dynamic mechanisms that enable a listener to filter out irrelevant sound sources in a changing acoustic scene.
Project description:Despite the importance of perceptually separating signals from background noise, we still know little about how nonhuman animals solve this problem. Dip listening, an ability to catch meaningful 'acoustic glimpses' of a target signal when fluctuating background noise levels momentarily drop, constitutes one possible solution. Amplitude-modulated noises, however, can sometimes impair signal recognition through a process known as modulation masking. We asked whether fluctuating noise simulating a breeding chorus affects the ability of female green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) to recognize male advertisement calls. Our analysis of recordings of the sounds of green treefrog choruses reveal that their levels fluctuate primarily at rates below 10 Hz. In laboratory phonotaxis tests, we found no evidence for dip listening or modulation masking. Mean signal recognition thresholds in the presence of fluctuating chorus-like noises were never statistically different from those in the presence of a non-fluctuating control. An analysis of statistical effects sizes indicates that masker fluctuation rates, and the presence versus absence of fluctuations, had negligible effects on subject behavior. Together, our results suggest that females listening in natural settings should receive no benefits, nor experience any additional constraints, as a result of level fluctuations in the soundscape of green treefrog choruses.
Project description:Two important questions in bioacoustics are whether vocal repertoires of animals are graded or discrete and how the vocal expressions are linked to the context of emission. Here we address these questions in an ungulate species. The vocal repertoire of young domestic pigs, Sus scrofa, was quantitatively described based on 1513 calls recorded in 11 situations. We described the acoustic quality of calls with 8 acoustic parameters. Based on these parameters, the k-means clustering method showed a possibility to distinguish either two or five clusters although the call types are rather blurred than strictly discrete. The division of the vocal repertoire of piglets into two call types has previously been used in many experimental studies into pig acoustic communication and the five call types correspond well to previously published partial repertoires in specific situations. Clear links exist between the type of situation, its putative valence, and the vocal expression in that situation. These links can be described adequately both with a set of quantitative acoustic variables and through categorisation into call types. The information about the situation of emission of the calls is encoded through five call types almost as accurately as through the full quantitative description.
Project description:Bats exhibit a diverse and complex vocabulary of social communication calls some of which are believed to be learned during development. This ability to produce learned, species-specific vocalizations - a rare trait in the animal kingdom - requires a high-degree of vocal plasticity. Bats live extremely long lives in highly complex and dynamic social environments, which suggests that they might also retain a high degree of vocal plasticity in adulthood, much as humans do. Here, we report persistent vocal plasticity in adult bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) following exposure to broad-band, acoustic perturbation. Our results show that adult bats can not only modify distinct parameters of their vocalizations, but that these changes persist even after noise cessation - in some cases lasting several weeks or months. Combined, these findings underscore the potential importance of bats as a model organism for studies of vocal plasticity, including in adulthood.