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Trends Neurosci. 2004 Nov;27(11):649-54.

A paradox in the evolution of primate vocal learning.

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Harvard University, William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The importance of auditory feedback in the development of spoken language in humans is striking. Paradoxically, although auditory-feedback-dependent vocal plasticity has been shown in a variety of taxonomic groups, there is little evidence that our nearest relatives--non-human primates--require auditory feedback for the development of species-typical vocal signals. Because of the apparent lack of developmental plasticity in the vocal production system, neuroscientists have largely ignored the neural mechanisms of non-human primate vocal production and perception. Recently, the absence of evidence for vocal plasticity from developmental studies has been contrasted with evidence for vocal plasticity in adults. We argue that this new evidence makes non-human primate vocal behavior an attractive model system for neurobiological analysis.

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