Programa do CILX2018

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TítuloA preliminary study of zebra finch early call rhythms: investigating a possible link between innate and learned vocalisations in a songbird model
AutoríaAlba A. Dias (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)
ResumoThe capacity to learn and produce complex vocalisations is a trait that humans share with only a handful of other animals. As an essential part of the externalisation component of FL, insights into the mechanisms and evolution of vocal learning are crucial for our understanding of how spoken language became possible in our species1. In the last decades, the availability of songbird models has opened the door to productive research avenues that have considerably expanded or knowledge of the neurobiological system supporting the production, perception and learning of vocal signals2.

The present contribution attempts to build on recent work3 on zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) innate vocalisations or calls —a type of vocal product different from song— by studying their early temporal patterns or „rhythms? and the development of these across time. Our aim is to present preliminary results regarding the nature of such early rhythms, as well as to put forward a working hypothesis on their influence on subsequent call and song production. Since calling and singing behaviours have been described as relying on neurobiologically distinct pathways with different evolutionary histories4, a developmental investigation into their rhythmic patterns has the potential to reveal possible interactions between these routes.

Our results were obtained in collaboration with the Laboratory of Vocal Learning at Hunter College (CUNY), who kindly provided the original bird data and sound analysis tools necessary for this study. Preliminary statistical analyses on five subjects show a progressive acceleration of the rhythmic patterns of calls very early in development, a trend which, we will argue, could be instrumental to the bird in acting as “motor practice” towards meeting the requirements of song production later in life. We will also briefly explore alternative explanatory possiblities, including a different hypothesis based on call type preference changes across development.

This contribution intends to show the relevance of animal experiments in advancing our knowledge of the vocal learning mechanisms underlying the production and learning of human speech. We hope to reflect the great value of songbird data as a resource to investigate questions of rhythmic organisation of vocal signals, and as a means to guide research on such mechanisms in our own species.
TipoPanel: Biolingüística 2.0: el lenguaje en la frontera entre la biología y la cultura
HorarioXoves 14 de xuño | 18:00 - 20:00 | Aula: C5