Food & Paper talk: The evolutionary relationship between vocal production learning (song, speech) and rhythmic ability (‘dance’)
Bring your own lunch and get some food for thought at RITMO's Food and Paper talk. Our second guest in this series is Marit Lobben (University of Oslo).
Vocal production learning refers to the ability of an individual to modify acoustic sounds, acquire new sounds through imitation and produce vocalizations by the vocal organ, the larynx (or in birds, the syrinx). Rhythmic ability on the other hand, depends upon the subcomponents of motor periodicity, cognitive beat extraction via auditory processing, and audiomotor entrainment by sensory-guided motor synchronization of the perceived and produced movement. Intriguingly, among the species investigated so far, most of those that can perceive a beat, and synchronise their movements to it, are also vocal production learners. What is the exact relationship between vocal production learning and rhythmic ability? It has been proposed that audiomotor entrainment could be mechanistically linked to vocal learning through specialized neural circuitry (the ‘Kuyper/Jürgens hypothesis’), but is this the whole story? Cetaceans and pinnipeds suggest otherwise.
Marit Lobben holds a PhD in linguistics and did multiple field works in West Africa on the tone language Hausa. She was also a postdoc at the Group for cognitive and neuropsychology at UiO where she did neuroimaging research, looking into the role of sensorimotor brain systems for concept formation in Chinese and Japanese (embodied cognition).