Cognitive Neuroscience Talks

A voice region in the monkey brain

For vocal animals, recognizing species-specific vocalizations is important for survival and social interactions. In humans, a voice region has been identified that is sensitive to human voices and vocalizations. As this region also strongly responds to speech, it is unclear whether it is tightly associated with linguistic processing and is thus unique to humans. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging of macaque monkeys (Old World primates, Macaca mulatta) we discovered a high-level auditory region that prefers species-specific vocalizations over other vocalizations and sounds. This region not only showed sensitivity to the ‘voice’ of the species, but also to the vocal identify of conspecific individuals. The monkey voice region is located on the superior-temporal plane and belongs to an anterior auditory ‘what’ pathway. These results establish functional relationships with the human voice region and support the notion that, for different primate species, the anterior temporal regions of the brain are adapted for recognizing communication signals from conspecifics.